Controversial Thai soccer head eyes AFC presidency


Wed, Feb 27, 2013 - Page 18

The controversial head of Thai soccer has thrown his hat into the ring for the leadership of turmoil-plagued Asian soccer, as a report said Bahrain’s soccer head would also stand in coming elections.

Football Association of Thailand president Worawi Makudi said he would seek to heal the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) if elected as leader of the body, which is seeking a replacement for its scandal-hit former boss, Mohamed bin Hammam.

“My main target as the AFC president would be to bring everybody together and to unite the Asian Football Confederation,” Worawi, 61, said in a statement late on Monday.

The statement was released after a meeting in Kuala Lumpur of the ASEAN Football Federation, a grouping of Southeast Asian soccer associations that said it “unanimously” supported Worawi.

Bahrain Football Association president Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa had also confirmed he would stand, World Football Insider said on its Web site.

The 46-member AFC will elect a new leader on May 2, hoping to move on from nearly two years of turmoil over allegations of wrongdoing including bribery by bin Hammam. The Qatari denies the allegations.

However, Worawi, an ally of bin Hammam and one of the most influential men in Asian soccer, brings his own baggage.

In September last year, he denied fraud allegations made by a South Korean firm in connection with the early cancelation of a multi-million-dollar broadcast rights deal.

Worawi was cleared in 2011 of accusations that funds meant for the Thai FA to build facilities were instead spent on building assets on land he owned in Bangkok.

He was previously accused by former English Football Association chairman Lord David Triesman of involvement in a scandal concerning bribes for officials from world governing body FIFA in return for backing England’s World Cup bid.

Worawi, who has denied wrongdoing, did not answer calls from reporters and an AFC spokesman declined to comment on the matter.

The AFC is currently headed by caretaker Zhang Jilong of China, who is considered the front-runner to secure the presidency in the elections in Kuala Lumpur, where the organization is based.

Zhang has said the AFC must leave its controversial past behind and enter a new era of “transparency.”

The AFC is the largest of six federations that make up FIFA.

World Football Insider had previously reported that United Arab Emirates Football Association president Yousuf al-Serkal also planned to stand.

Bin Hammam, 63, was accused of trying to buy votes in FIFA’s 2011 presidential vote as he challenged the powerful Sepp Blatter to lead the global body and banned from soccer.

The businessman formally resigned as AFC leader in December last year, shortly after FIFA launched a new probe into corruption claims against him.

The FIFA life ban was overturned, but bin Hammam remains suspended from soccer.

The Qatari says he is the victim of a politically motivated campaign to ruin him. He was once close to Blatter, but the two later became estranged.

The deadline for AFC leadership nominations is on Sunday.