Royal bid for AFC presidency unlikely to succeed

Royal bid for AFC presidency
unlikely to succeed

A member of Bahrain’s royal family, head of the Bahrain
Football Association (BFA) Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa,
is campaigning to become the next president of the
Asian Football Confederation (AFC), courting yet more
controversy for the region’s soccer establishment. The position
has been vacant since Qatar’s Mohammed Bin Hammam was
suspended in May 2011, and investigations into his wrongdoings
are ongoing, as are questions over Qatar’s winning bid for the
2022 World Cup (GSN 930/7, 929/9).

Sheikh Salman, a grandson of Bahrain’s late ruler Sheikh
Salman II Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa who ruled from 1942 to
1962, has been accused of heading a committee that looked at
photographs of anti-government protests to identify Shiite
athletes taking part. Some 150 athletes were targeted, and
among those detained were two of the island’s most prominent
football players, Aala and Mohammed Hubail. Mohammed
was sentenced to two years in prison, but was later released.

The BFA denied any wrongdoing, and Manama probably hopes
that a win for Sheikh Salman could help redress its tainted
reputation. But observers suggest the AFC will look away from
the Gulf, fearing further embarrassment. “There are a lot of
people who feel that he would not be the person they would
want to represent the AFC, certainly not an AFC that comes
out of a crisis,” said James M Dorsey, author of the blog The
Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer and a close observer of the
AFC. He said China’s Zhang Jilong, currently interim AFC
president, had a much better chance of winning.


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