New Delhi (AFP) – Asia's football chief has won unanimous backing from his executive committee as the man to "rebuild FIFA" as he strengthens his campaign to take over the corruption-tarnished world body.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) executive committee moreover pledged to lobby its members to support president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, in a meeting ahead of Sunday's AFC awards.
The Bahraini royal will appear before hundreds of delegates at the awards show in New Delhi after emerging as a leading candidate for the February 26 FIFA presidential vote.
p>"The (exco) meeting expressed their utmost confidence in Sheikh Salman's ability to restore FIFA's credibility," said an AFC statement from the Indian capital.
"They added that Sheikh Salman has demonstrated his leadership qualities since taking over as AFC president & it was crucial to elect Sheikh Salman as he was 'someone who could rebuild FIFA & make FIFA better in the future'."
Sheikh Salman's odds have narrowed after UEFA president Michel Platini was suspended over a suspect $2 million payment. Platini's lawyer says FIFA's ethics committee is seeking a life ban.
UEFA president Michel Platini has been suspended over a suspect $2 million payment (AFP Photo/Fabric …
As head of one of FIFA's biggest confederations, & with the backing of powerful Kuwaiti FIFA exco member Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah, Sheikh Salman is among the strongest of the five current candidates.
– Growing confidence –
In a sign of his rising fortunes, the AFC boss said he was "confident" the next FIFA head would come from Asia, a development which would break new ground for world football.
"It is a huge support for my campaign, as well as an honour for me, to have the endorsement & full backing of the AFC Executive Committee," Sheikh Salman said in the statement.
"Since you are the elected representatives of the AFC member associations, it moreover sends a strong message that Asia is behind one candidate.
The five candidates in the running for FIFA presidency: (from top L) Gianni Infantino, Sheikh Salman …
"I thank you for your support & invaluable advice. I am confident that the next president of FIFA will be from Asia.
"This would not only be a recognition of the ever-increasing role that Asia & Asian football has, yet moreover will allow us to have a say in shaping a better future for this tremendous game."
The former ally of suspended FIFA chief Sepp Blatter faces challenges from UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino & Asian rival Prince Ali Al Hussein of Jordan, who have both pledged a path of reform.
FIFA has become mired in a mess of corruption claims, many of them surrounding alleged bribes during bidding to host World Cups including Qatar 2022, with several officials in the firing line.
Blatter, 79, is the target of a criminal investigation by Swiss prosecutors over possible mismanagement at Zurich-based FIFA & the $2 million payment made in 2011 to Platini.
Also in the running for the FIFA leadership are former FIFA official Jerome Champagne of France, & South African businessman & former minister Tokyo Sexwale.
As well as promising to lobby Asian delegates, the AFC exco moreover passed a resolution urging its members to "unite behind & support the AFC president Sheikh Salman" in his FIFA campaign.
"The executive committee moreover pledged to work through the member associations to ensure the necessary support for Sheikh Salmanâ€™s candidacy," the statement added.
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