Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa has dismissed accusations of underhand electioneering levelled at him by one of his FIFA presidential rivals as “entirely inaccurate”.
Jordanian Prince Ali bin al Hussein on Saturday accused the Bahraini head of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) of “a breach of electoral rules” and demanded an investigation.
Prince Ali was upset at news of a deal between the AFC and the powerful Confederation of African Football (CAF) to organise tournaments and programmes for technical development.
The Prince inferred that the agreement signed in Kigali on Friday suggested Sheikh Salman was trying to secure backing from CAF for the February 26 vote to become the new president of FIFA.
The choice of the 54-strong CAF could be crucial in the election to succeed suspended FIFA boss Sepp Blatter in Zurich next month.
The African confederation enjoys the biggest membership ahead of UEFA (53), Asia (46), Concacaf (35), Oceania (11) and South America (10).
“I have always promoted cross-regional understanding,” Prince Ali said. “However the timing of this memorandum of understanding between the AFC and the CAF looks like a blatant attempt to engineer a bloc vote.”
Hitting back, Sheikh Salman strongly refuted any notion of a backroom deal with Africa.
“I am astonished about my friend’s comments, which are wholly dismissed and entirely inaccurate”, the Bahraini said on Sunday.
In a statement he was at pains to point out that the AFC and CAF had begun talking about joining forces in May 2015, five months before he threw his hat into the FIFA election ring.
Up against Prince Ali and Shrikh Salman in next month’s election are UEFA secretary general Gianni Infantino, South African business tycoon Tokyo Sexwale and former FIFA official Jerome Champagne of France.
Suspended UEFA chief and former France international player Michel Platini has pulled out of the race.
Platini and outgoing FIFA president Sepp Blatter were suspended for eight years by FIFA’s ethics committee last month over a $2 million payment made to Platini in 2011 for work carried out between 1999 and 2002. – Agence France-Presse