Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman secures AFC presidency

Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa secured a resounding victory in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) presidential elections earlier today, landing the top job in Asian football as well as a place on FIFA’s powerful Executive Committee.

Sheikh Salman received 33 of the 46 votes from AFC member associations to comprehensively head off the challenge of Thailand’s Worawi Makudi (seven votes) and Yousuf Al Serkal of the UAE (six votes). The field was reduced in number on Wednesday after Saudi Arabia’s Hafez Al Medlej withdrew from the race. He was concerned that the rivalry between Al Serkal and Sheikh Salman could divide the West Asian vote and allow Makudi to win. Al Medlej had said he would only stay in the race if both West Asian candidates could be persuaded to withdraw before the vote takes place.

The AFC in March confirmed that acting president Zhang Jilong would not run for the presidency of the continental governing body after unveiling its list of nominations for the role. Zhang, who was seen as a favourite for the position by many observers, had served in the role since May 2011 following the downfall of previous chief Mohamed bin Hammam. Bin Hammam’s subsequent life ban from world football had left a power vacuum, and a certain state of uncertainty, in the Asian game but Sheikh Salman, who had served as president of the Bahrain Football Association, will now serve the final two years of Bin Hammam’s original four-year tenure before more elections are scheduled for 2015. Addressing the AFC Congress in Kuala Lumpur, Sheikh Salman said: “I’m proud and happy today, proud and happy to see the Asian football family gathered together. Proud and happy to see our family united under one roof in the capital of Asian football. We need complete reforms, what we need is an AFC where decision makers are accountable.”

Meanwhile, Sheikh Salman has also secured the AFC’s available seat on FIFA’s Executive Committee. He received 28 votes, 10 more than Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee general secretary Hassan al-Thawadi, the only other candidate for the position. Sheikh Salman joins HRH Prince Ali bin Al Hussein and Makudi as three of the AFC’s representatives on FIFA’s Executive Committee with Sri Lanka’s Vernon Manilal Fernando this week banned for eight years from all football activity by FIFA.