By Daniel Shane
Emirati Yousuf Al-Serkal claims he has 'blessing' of FIFA boss in race to be Asia president
UAE Football Association head and Asia Football Confederation (AFC) presidency candidate Yousuf Al-Serkal claimed that he has the backing of FIFA boss Sepp Blatter in the run-up to next month’s election.
Al-Serkal will face off against Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa, Saudi Arabia's Hafez Ibrahim Al Medlejand Thailand’s Worawi Makudi in a May 2 vote in Kuala Lumpur.
The Emirati, who has based his candidacy on increasing transparency in the game’s administration and driving out corruption, met with Blatter in Geneva last month.
“I was looking for his blessing, and I definitely felt that I have it,” Al Serkal said in Dubai. “My discussion with him was very open, and I left FIFA with much more comfort then when I entered.
Al Serkal also denied that a bribery scandal that led to a lifetime ban for the sport being placed on former AFC boss, Qatari Mohammed bin Hamman, had tainted his own candidacy.
“Yes, I am a close friend of Bin Hammam, but that friendship had nothing to do with the work we used to do. I always had different ideas, opinions and conflicts in the opinion with Bin Hammam,” he said. “I keep friendship separate from work.”
Al Serkal’s rival for the role, Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman, last week declared himself the favourite to land the AFC top job.
Asked by Reuters if he was the favourite to win the AFC election, he responded: “I think I am, yes.”
Sheikh Salman, who is head of Bahrain’s Football Association, has faced allegations that some members of the Gulf state’s football team were tortured during ongoing political unrest in the country.
"I don't want to talk about these matters because the moment you talk about it, it opens the door,” he said. Since I have been in charge of football here in Bahrain, we always leave religious and political matters and views outside to try to focus on the game."