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‘Al-Khalifa confident of becoming FIFA president’

February 14, 2016

MANAMA, Bahrain: Sources close to the FIFA presidential candidate Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa are very confident of his success in the world football governing body’s elections which will be held in Zurich on February 26.

“Yes, Salman has a great chance. He is a real benefactor of the game and he will surely win,” a source very close to Salman told ‘The News’ during a long interaction here on Saturday.

“He has already been ensured over hundred votes. I cannot mention the names, but even a few strong countries in the UEFA are also expected to vote for him,” the source said.

Salman, also the reigning president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), is one of the five candidates for the top slot of FIFA which has lost its credibility during the last few months because of scandals of corruption.

Jordan’s Prince Ali Al Hussein, runner-up in the previous election, France’s Jerome Champagne, former executive at FIFA from 1999 to 2010, South Africa’s businessman Tokyo Sexwale and Italy-Switzerland’s Gianni Infantino, also UEFA General Secretary, are the others set to fight for the powerful post.

Sources said that the recent scandals of corruption and illegal practices had enhanced Salman’s chances.

“Football is a great sport and Salman is the only person who can pull the game out of deep trouble,” another source pointed out.

“Because of the recent corruption scandals, even Europeans have started thinking that FIFA’s top post should now go to a person who is fair and can run it effectively,” the source added.

Sources also said that Jordon’s Prince Ali, who lost to former FIFA chief Sepp Blatter in FIFA elections last year, was not likely to withdraw in favour of Salman.

“I don’t think Prince Ali will withdraw for Salman. Prince Ali was FIFA’s vice-president and when it was decided that the president of every confederation will be the vice-president of FIFA, Ali told Salman, who had become AFC president, to go against the FIFA bid,” it said. “But Salman told him that this decision would benefit the confederations and he could not go against it,” it added.

However, another source said that Prince Ali might withdraw as his position was very weak. They also said that Salman’s victory would be the victory of the whole football family.

“His victory would be for all the football fans and stakeholders from across the world as he is very honest and wants to deliver at the highest level. He loves working for the game,” a source said.

Sources also said that Salman’s accession to the FIFA presidency would also shun uncertainty over Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup.

“Salman had also at that time strongly supported Qatar. Both Bahrain and Qatar are very close to each other and I have faith in Qatar as it has the resources and the will to host the World Cup,” the source said.

It will be for the first time that an Arab nation will be hosting the FIFA’s top event.

There are only two key points on the agenda of the FIFA’s Congress to be held at its headquarters in Zurich on February 26: “To elect its president and approve the reforms which have already been processed”.

Besides, with the approval of a handful of committees, it is also expected that the reform segment regarding awarding the FIFA World Cup would also be approved.

Previously, FIFA executive committee used to undertake the process of allotting World Cups to those who bid for the master showpiece.

However, if new rules are approved, this will allow all the 209 countries affiliated with FIFA to decide World Cup hosts.

Sheikh Salman’s triumph would also help Pakistan a lot. He has done a lot for Pakistan’s football in the last few years. Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) president Faisal Saleh Hayat played a key role in this process because of his friendship with Salman.

Salman has also signed an amended version of a human rights pledge as he attempts to draw the sting from pressure groups opposing his campaign.

The pledge was put forward by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and three other groups asking presidential candidates to agree to “six clear steps that will put FIFA on the road to ensuring that its events do not cause or contribute to human rights abuses and corruption”.

Salman has signed the pledge but with amendments– removing specific references to Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 World Cups and abuses against women and LGBT groups.

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