It is never easy in the recent unpredictable world of the Asian Football Confederation.
For years, the A.F.C. has been accused of favoring more affluent nations, financial improprieties and, most recently, accusations made against the ex-president — Mohammed Bin Hammam of Qatar.
As the four candidates gear up for the presidential election in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Thursday, May 2, it is difficult to discern the mood in Asia. The candidates are: Yousuf al-Serkal (United Arab Emirates), Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa (Bahrain), Hafez al-Medlej (Saudi Arabia) and Worawi Makudi (Thailand).
These so called agents of change have promised reforms, such as better governance, transparency and a balanced profit sharing.
“I know from my experience that I will win,” Serkal, the head of Emirates’ federation, said last week.
He is basing his candidacy on the improvement in the ranking of the U.A.E. national team, according to FIFA. The team was No. 122 a year ago, but is not ranked No. 89 in the latest world ranking.
Medlej, the chairman of the confederation’s marketing committee told John Duerden, the editor of Kick Off Asia: “I don’t mind going against Worawi but I mind going against someone from the same region. We are one region and we have the same taste. We are very much alike. We should be united behind one candidate. West Asia needs only one candidate.”
As a member of the Bahraini royal family, Khalifa has asserted he played no role in the on-going sectarian troubled in Bahrain. There are some, however, who question his commitment to transparency. Michael Casey, a reporter based in the Middle East who has reported for a number of publications, was ejected from Khalifa’s recent news conference because of an article he had written about the uprising. According to one of Casey’s articles for the Associated Press, Kahalifa said: “Is it under my responsibility as an F.A. member? Have they been treated ill because of their football reasons?”
Whoever is elected on Thursday will have to deal with an epidemic of match-fixing charges that have beset the region while also dealing with continuing questions about the selection of Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup and play matches in the oppressive summer heat.