“It is unfortunate that the direction taken by the AFC President and other AFC officials is one driven purely by politics instead of focusing our energies and valuable time on improving the game in Asia,” he said in an open letter to the Asian football community.
The AFC leadership should instead address “the myriad challenges that AFC faces in marketing, grassroots football, women’s football, transparency and accountability and the list goes on,” added the latter.
Prince Ali, the head of the Jordanian FA, said that the AFC rejected the proposal last year, yet it had now resurfaced.
“The very Congress that elected the current AFC President has made its decision on the matter at our annual Congress a year ago. I am truly surprised that this proposal has resurfaced in the past few months, led vigorously by the current AFC President.
“In fact, it has become the central issue on the AFC President’s football agenda in Asia,” added Prince Ali, who led the campaign to overturn FIFA’s ban on the hijab and allow Muslim women players to wear the Islamic headscarf.
“It is regrettable that the AFC presidency has spent so much time and energy over the past few days in Kuala Lumpur lobbying heavily for this proposal amongst Asian member association representatives, instead of working hand in hand for the development of football in Asia.
“It is worth noting, as well, that the AFC President has the right to run as FIFA vice-president or any other FIFA Executive seat from Asia,” he added.
“There aren’t any provisions in our statutes that prevent the president from doing so democratically.”
Sheikh Salman was elected last May when he secured 33 of the 46 presidential votes available from AFC member associations to beat Yousuf Al Serkal of the United Arab Emirates (six votes) and Thailand’s Worawi Makudi (seven votes) in a lop-sided election.
The Bahraini replaced disgraced Qatari Mohamed Bin Hammam, who was banned for life by FIFA in 2011 amid allegations of trying to buy votes during the lobbying process in that year’s presidential election.
At the same election, Sheikh Salman was elected to FIFA’s executive committee as an ordinary member.
“My work will continue regardless of the outcome of this proposal,” said Prince Ali. “I only urge member associations and football officials to think about our priorities in Asia and decide accordingly. Let us choose football over politics.”
(Editing by Rex Gowar)