Football: Asia turn their back on Asian candidate in favour of Blatter for president

Asia's top sports leaders on Friday refused to back Prince Ali Al Hussein's (left) election challenge to Fifa president Sepp Blatter (right) and insisted it was doomed to failure. -- PHOTOS: AFP
Asia's top sports leaders on Friday refused to back Prince Ali Al Hussein's (left) election challenge to Fifa president Sepp Blatter (right) and insisted it was doomed to failure. -- PHOTOS: AFP

MELBOURNE (AFP) - Asia's top sports leaders on Friday refused to back Prince Ali Al Hussein's election challenge to Fifa president Sepp Blatter and insisted it was doomed to failure.

Asian Football Confederation (AFC) chief Shaikh Salman Ebrahim Al Khalifa told AFP there would be no about-turn on the regional body's previous commitment to back Blatter. He said all 46 AFC member associations were behind the veteran but controversial world football chief, despite Jordanian royal Prince Ali's status as an AFC vice-president.

"We made it clear where Asia is heading in the next Fifa election and the 46 countries have committed to Joseph Sepp Blatter to take a fifth term, so nothing has changed," he insisted.

"We never change our commitment," Shaikh Salman said he had been stunned to hear of Prince Ali's decision, announced this week, to stand against Blatter at elections in May.

"I was surprised to see it in the press," he said, following an AFC extraordinary congress in Melbourne before the start of the Asian Cup.

"If there is a candidate from Asia, Asia has to push for it. It's not the way around that somebody can nominate themselves without consulting the Asian confederation.

"At the end of the day, you will need the backing of the confederation."

Prince Ali, 39, a Fifa vice-president and also head of the West Asian Football Federation, was one of several officials who called for the publication of ethics investigator Michael Garcia's report into allegations of corruption surrounding the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids.

But Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) boss Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah warned that Prince Ali risked upsetting the unity of member nations across the region.

He predicted Prince Ali would struggle to win "10 to 15 percent of the votes" in the May 29 election, and suggested he reconsider his bid.

"I hope Prince Ali or any other candidate will think a thousand times before making his calculation," said the powerful Kuwaiti. "He has the right to continue, but we wish to show our solidarity in the football family - and solidarity is needed more than ever in this organisation during (a time of) the Garcia file and stories of corruption."

Sheikh Ahmad added: "I hope he will recalculate to think what would be a realistic analysis (of the situation) and take the right resolution."