Sheikh Salman May Become AFC President after Withdrawal of UAE Rival
2019-03-26 - 8:36 p
Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): A sports website reported that the official from the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed Khalfan Al-Romaithi, was on the verge of pulling out on Sunday (March 17) after he withdrew funding for his bid following the decision by the 12 members of the ASEAN Football Federation, including Australia, to publicly back Sheikh Salman.
Sheikh Salman claimed the number of AFC countries backing him to 40 out of a possible 47.
The decision was officially confirmed after a visit to Abu Dhabi by Sheikh Salman.
It represents a remarkable turnaround in position by Al-Romaithi, who, when he launched his bid at a high-profile ceremony in Abu Dhabi earlier this month, claimed that under Sheikh Salman the "AFC stands under a dark cloud, one shrouded in politics and poor governance".
That, however, appears to have now been forgotten.
"I would like to thank Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa for his initiative and his visit to the UAE and would like to stress that when I decided to run for the Presidency it wasn't because I was aiming for the position itself," Al-Romaithi said in a statement.
"The main reason was to put Asian football where it deserves to be: among the other continents through a program that reflects my vision on how to develop the game in the biggest continent in the world.
"I was happy that Sheikh Salman wants to take advantage of this program and aim to achieve it.
"Therefore, I will spare no effort in supporting him in order to reach this goal."
Qatar's Saoud Al-Mohannadi is expected to announce his withdrawal shortly.
Sheikh Salman was elected AFC President in 2013 at the AFC Extraordinary Congress.
Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa's candidacy for the AFC presidency and his Australian support have been highly criticized, mainly by Craig Foster, an Australian Socceroo who led the international campaign to demand the release of Bahraini player Hakeem Al-Araibi, following his recent detention for more than two months in Thailand based on a red notice from Interpol at the request of Bahrain.
Foster has described as "sickening" the support of Australia for the re-election of Asian Football Confederation President Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa.
Thailand arrested Al-Araibi when he arrived to Bangkok to spend a vacation with his wife on November 27, based on a request from Bahrain. Al-Araibi, 25, left for Australia in May 2015. He was given a 10-year prison sentence in absentia in 2014 for being convicted of involvement in an attack on a police station.
The player stresses that he was playing a game at the time of the alleged attack.
According to Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), Al-Araibi was arrested in Bahrain in 2012 amid protests against the authorities. He was beaten and tortured on the background of his affiliation with the Shiite community whom thousands of them participated in protests against the Sunni ruling Al Khalifa family as well as his brother's political activism. He also said that one of the reasons for his prosecution was his criticism of Sheikh Salman, who previously assumed the presidency of the Football Association in his country, noting that the AFC president denied any involvement in this case.
Al-Araibi was released in February after the Thai authorities said that Bahrain had withdrawn his extradition request. The former player returned to Australia where he was given citizenship earlier in March.