Even without Blatter, FIFA election shenanigans continue

AP Photo/Hasan Jamali
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LONDON (AP) FIFA presidential candidate Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al Khalifa dismissed a rival’s complaint about his election conduct as “entirely inaccurate” and warned on Saturday against public squabbling.

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Prince Ali bin al-Hussein has accused Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman of a “blatant attempt to engineer a bloc vote” by signing a pact between the Asian Football Confederation he leads and its counterpart in Africa. Jordanian federation president Prince Ali on Friday asked FIFA’s election watchdog to investigate whether election rules were broken.

But in a statement on Saturday, titled “An unnecessary spat between FIFA candidates,” Sheikh Salman insisted the Asia-Africa pact was being worked on months before he decided to run in the Feb. 26 election to replace Sepp Blatter.

“I am astonished about my friend’s comments, which are wholly dismissed and entirely inaccurate,” Sheikh Salman said.

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The Bahraini royal said that talks about the “memorandum of understanding” started when the general secretaries of the Asia and African governing bodies met in May. He noted that the AFC has similar cooperation agreements with FIFA and two other regional bodies: UEFA and CONCACAF.

“As AFC president, one of my duties is to seek development-knowhow sharing opportunities for the AFC around the world and to establish solid ties with like-minded football professionals,” the sheikh said.

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Sheikh Salman and Prince Ali are competing against UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino, former FIFA official Jerome Champagne, and South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale in a five-man election field.

Prince Ali was beaten in May’s presidential election by Blatter, who announced resignation plans the following week in the wake of criminal investigations into FIFA officials, and was later banished from world soccer for eight years by the ethics judge.

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