UAE's Al Sarkal to run for Asia presidency

UAE's Al Sarkal to run for Asia presidency

Published Jul. 11, 2012 2:18 p.m. ET

Yousuf al-Sarkal, who heads the United Arab Emirates Football Association, says he will run for the top job in Asian football if Mohammed bin Hammam is not reinstated.

The Asian Football Confederation is expected to hold elections after the Court of Arbitration for Sport hands down its ruling on bin Hammam, who is appealing his life ban from the sport for vote-buying in the FIFA presidential election. The ruling is expected in the coming weeks but an election could be later this year or even as late as next March.

Al-Sarkal, a close ally of bin Hammam who is also an AFC vice president, says he would bring the kind of ''experience'' the Asian football body needs after spending more than two decades with the organization.

"I have been serving in sports for a long time and serving in AFC almost the same time,'' said al-Sarkal, who joined the AFC in 1991. ''With all this experience, I'm offering to work for the AFC as president.''


Al-Sarkal's biggest challenger will be Zhang Jilong of China who has been the acting president since May 2011. There is also talk of a challenger coming from Japan and possibly two other candidates from West Asia, including Bahrain's Sheik Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa who lost a bitter election against bin Hammam in 2009 for a FIFA executive committee seat.

Al-Sarkal said the prospect of multiple candidates from West Asia is a ''concern'' but that he hoped the region would agree on a single choice ahead of the election.

''We should have only one candidate from the West. It does unify the whole west zone behind one person. It does make it easier,'' al-Sarkal said. ''I hope myself and Sheik Salman can come to an understanding that one of us should run. We are good friends. I hope we use our friendship and long relationship to overcome the situation. I don't believe there will be third candidate from this region. I think now the region has been convinced that one of the two should continue.''

Critics are expected to challenge the merits of an al-Sarkal candidacy on two fronts. Some will demand that the next president come from East Asia, since bin Hammam was from the neighboring Gulf state of Qatar. Al-Sarkal also will face questions over his close relationship with bin Hammam, whom he has staunchly defended ever since the Qatari was accused of offering Caribbean voters $40,000 bribes last May to back his election contest against FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

Bin Hammam claimed Blatter had been aware that gifts would be offered in Trinidad, and said the FIFA president helped orchestrate a scandal to ensure victory.

''That does worry me yes. It does worry me that some people might think Yousuf will be a continuation of the negative side of bin Hammam,'' al-Sarkal said.

''But we have to be fair,'' he said. ''If we look at bin Hammam and judge him on what he has done, he has done more positive than negative. Nobody is perfect. If I was to be judged as a continuation of bin Hammam, I look at it positively. People should look at it positively. If someone doesn't want to support me, they will present the negative side and that is a fact of life.''

If elected, al-Sarkal said he would continue several of the programs that earned bin Hammam praise before he was caught up in the corruption scandal including promoting grassroots development, continuing the growth of the Asian Champions League as well as the expansion of women's football.

Bin Hammam had been the AFC president and member of FIFA's executive committee since 1996. But he was banned from all football duties by the ethics court in July 2011.


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