Asian president reveals re-election bid
File photo of Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) - by Mohd Rasfan
Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said he wants to "set a new course" for Asian football and "restore our reputation".
He added that he will push for an extra World Cup slot for Asian teams despite a poor showing at the current tournament in Brazil, when all four representatives departed winless.
Shaikh Salman's re-election bid has been widely expected since he took over last year following the demise of Qatar's tainted Mohamed bin Hammam, who was accused of bribery.
"We are in the beginning stages of a long-term restructuring project and it would be great to personally see it through as I am confident it will greatly benefit the confederation," Shaikh Salman said.
"So yes I would be pleased to continue with the presidency with the support from the member associations," added the Bahraini royal, in response to questions sent via email.
Shaikh Salman won a landslide election last year to complete the third term of bin Hammam, who was barred from football after being accused of handing out cash-stuffed envelopes in a bid to be voted FIFA president in 2011.
Bin Hammam has also been accused of giving delegates inducements during Qatar's successful campaign to win hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup.
Shaikh Salman will now seek his first full, four-year term along with Asia's FIFA vice-presidency, after he won an agreement to merge the two powerful posts at an extraordinary AFC congress last month.
"Essentially we are working as one for the development of Asian football, and the merger (of the two positions) will complement our goal," Shaikh Salman said.
He promised to push ahead with a campaign, supported by FIFA president Sepp Blatter, to increase Asia's World Cup allocation of four places plus a fifth available through a play-off.
- 'Asian teams must adapt' -
The AFC's 46 members give it a strong voice within FIFA, while the region's population of billions represents a huge potential market.
But Asia's progress on the world stage unexpectedly took a step back in Brazil when Australia, Japan, South Korea and Iran all failed to win.
"We are always looking at ways to increase our standing globally," Shaikh Salman said.
"Having an extra spot in the World Cup will help us massively in that regards but of course the spot must be earned, and we will strive to earn it."
Shaikh Salman reaffirmed his support for the controversial Blatter, who has announced he's ready to seek a fifth term next year -- despite earlier promises not to do so.
His continued backing contrasts with UEFA chief Michel Platini, who withdrew his support for Blatter following last month's FIFA congress in Sao Paulo.
Shaikh Salman added that "Asian teams must learn to adapt to the intensity of these international tournaments" following their first winless World Cup in 24 years.
"They have got a taste of performing at the highest level, against the best teams and this will be the impetus for them to elevate their own standard to a higher degree," he said.
Shaikh Salman said Asian standards would be helped by moves such as broadening participation in the AFC Champions League, the region's top club competition.
The AFC also has initiatives to deliver more infrastructure, funding and expertise to cash-strapped members, while a new, two-chamber ethics committee will help target corruption.
"The need for an all-around development within Asia is crucial," Shaikh Salman said.