Al-Serkal will clean up Asian football if elected
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -Yousuf al-Serkal has promised to clean up the corruption-riddled Asian Football Confederation if he is elected president.
Al-Serkal, one of four candidates running in the May 2 election, revealed his campaign platform Monday, including a promise to improve governance and transparency of the 46-member body that oversees Asian football.
Among his proposals are "declaring publicly the allowances and benefits given to me'' by the federation and introducing a whistle-blower program to allow "players and officials to report in complete confidence any irregularities.''
"We are at a time when our stakeholders believe that leaders in the game are only in it for themselves,'' al-Serkal said. "This must change. I want to see an AFC where football is first and only topic on our agenda.''
Al-Serkal faces Sheik Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, Worawi Makudi of Thailand and Hafez Al Medlej of Saudi Arabia to replace the scandal-tainted Mohammed bin Hammam.
Bin Hammam, who became AFC president in 2002, was found guilty of vote-buying during his challenge against FIFA President Sepp Blatter in 2011 and the FIFA ethics committee suspended him from all football activity for life.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned that ban last July, but bin Hammam remained under provisional bans by both FIFA and AFC as investigations continued into allegations of financial irregularities during his tenure. He was again banned for life by FIFA.
Bin Hammam's troubled legacy could come back to haunt al-Serkal, who is a close ally of the Qatari businessman and stood by him during the scandal. Even on Monday, al-Serkal called bin Hammam a good friend and refused to criticize his reign as president. Several close bin Hammam allies were at the news conference and the public relations agency that organized it also worked on Qatar's 2020 World Cup bid.
"Yes, I am a close friend of bin Hammam but that had nothing to do with the work we did,'' al-Serkal said, adding that he has never been linked to any of the corruption allegations.
Al -Serkal also said the Olympic Committee of Asia and its president, Sheik Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah of Kuwait, were meddling in the AFC election.
"We don't see this happening anywhere else in the world. This is only happening in Asia,'' al-Serkal said. "If it was only Sheik Ahmed as individual, it would be OK. He has right to support one candidate or another. But since it's been done in an official way, that is really a direct interference which I regret.''
Al-Serkal also reiterated that he would push to see the 2022 World Cup in Qatar moved from summer to winter to avoid the brutal heat that is common at that time of the year in the Persian Gulf.
"From experience in this region, I know it is very hot and know players will not perform at their best, their top level,'' al-Serkal said. "This will effect the image of the game. If it would take place in January, it's the best time of year in this part of the world. I support this event being played in January.''
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