Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) have hit out at Football Federation Australia's decision to support the re-election bid of Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman Ibrahim Al-Khalifa.
The FFA have followed the lead of other Asian nations and confirmed their backing of Sheikh Salman on Monday ahead of April 6 elections.
Sheikh Salman has however been strongly criticised for his inaction when it came to Hakeem al-Araibi with the PFA strongly opposed to his reign being allowed to continue.
"The PFA is on record challenging the right of the incumbent to continue in the role of AFC president, let alone serve another term," PFA chief executive John Didulica said.
"The inability of the incumbent to protect and promote the human rights of one of the game's players in line with his constitutional obligations demonstrates a breath-taking failure as the continent's highest office holder and a repudiation and abrogation of the office of president.
“FFA’s support – without consulting with key members of the FFA Congress – is difficult to understand given the unity of purpose the Australian football family recently displayed to help secure the freedom of Hakeem Al-Araibi.
“We await FIFA and/or FFA to urgently provide the basis upon which the incumbent satisfied the eligibility criteria notwithstanding the fundamental concerns raised by the PFA over his ongoing tenure during the period of Hakeem’s detention.”
In a statement on Monday, FFA chairman Chris Nikou attempted to explain why they decided to back Shaikh Salman.
“It was the consensus view of all of ASEAN that Shaikh Salman is the best-credentialed candidate to continue to lead the development of football both in ASEAN and in Asia more broadly," Nikou said.
“Under the leadership of the Shaikh Salman, the size of the AFC Asian Cup has expanded, the FIFA World Cup qualification process has broadened, new football development initiatives have been introduced, prize money and subsidies for clubs participating in the AFC Champions League have increased and significantly improved terms were secured with AFC’s new marketing rights partner.
“After discussion between the 12 Member Associations of the ASEAN region, we resolved in solidarity to support Shaikh Salman’s candidacy."
Former Socceroo Craig Foster has also hit out at the FFA's decision to support Shaikh Salman.
After playing a key role in securing al-Araibi's release, Foster described the FFA's decision to support the man that failed to act was 'sickening'.
"That Australia could even contemplate voting for such a candidate makes a mockery of any discussion of fundamental values within the game," Foster said in a statement.
"The conduct of Salman during the incarceration of Hakeem was unconscionable."