UAE head wants rivals to support his AFC bid
MUMBAI (Reuters) - Yousuf Al Serkal wants his two west Asian rivals for the AFC presidency post to step down and support his bid as he holds the majority of votes in the region, the United Arab Emirates soccer chief told Reuters.
West Asia so far has three candidates for the role of Asian Football Confederation president ahead of Sunday's deadline for nomination with their chances of success all hindered by each other's standing.
Thailand's Worawi Makudi is also in the running to succeed Mohamed Bin Hammam and the controversial FIFA executive committee member has the backing of 12 votes in his southeast Asian region.
With 13 members in the West Asian Football Federation, Al Serkal wants Bahrain Football Association President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa and Saudi Arabia official Hafez El Medlej to step down so the votes aren't split.
"Now we have three candidates (from West Asia) but I am the favourite," Al Serkal told Reuters in an interview on Friday.
"If we reach an agreement between the three of us that we have one candidate for the post, yes, I will have all of the votes of West Asia.
"But if the other two insist on continuing, I will still be the favourite and I will have a minimum of 70 percent support from the zone."
The AFC, which has 47 member associations, has been without a permanent president since Qatari Bin Hammam was banned for life by FIFA for corruption and bribery. China's Zhang Jilong has held the role of AFC acting leader since May 2011 but hasn't said whether he will contest.
Worawi appears to have a headstart on his rivals for the May 2 election with his Southeast Asian support and has been campaigning hard for the eight votes in the south Asian region.
Al Serkal agreed that the Thai, an ally of Bin Hammam, had stolen a march on the race.
"I believe Worawi Makudi will be the closest rival," the AFC vice-president said by telephone. "In his zone, he's the only contestant and so he'll definitely have the majority.
"We are talking about 12 (votes) and he'll have a minimum of 10. That's a good start. From our zone, if we have just one contestant that will be a good. It will be a good start for two candidates for the post.
"But with my relationship in different zones of Asia, I can still win if it is otherwise."
Asian soccer has been mired in crisis since Bin Hammam was given a lifetime ban by FIFA for bribery and corruption during his failed bid to become the world governing body's leader nearly two years ago.
In the absence of a permanent leader the AFC have been hit with numerous problems, with matchfixing the latest issue to strike.
Lebanon, South Korea, Malaysia and China have all experienced recent rigging problems while Indonesian football is in turmoil after a two-year battle for power has divided officials.
The UAE soccer head, who has been a football administrator for over 20 years, felt an experienced leader was the need of the hour for the AFC to guide the association through the difficult patch.
"At the moment what we need is unity. For nearly two years now, we have had a lot of differences and I would not say conflicts but sort of disagreements," he said.
"I have served AFC for over 20 years now. It needs a person who has the experience and the knowledge of most of the members and at least a friendly relationship with the member federations.
"I think under my leadership we can be unified all together again and concentrate on soccer rather than on politics which has been happening for almost two years now."
The winning candidate will lead the AFC until 2015, as opposed to the normal four-year term.
(Editing by Patrick Johnston)
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