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Al Medlaj pledges to remain a neutral candidate

Saudi denies quitting AFC candidacy to back Al Sarkal but admits close ties

Gulf News

Dubai: A candidate for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) presidential elections on May 2, Dr. Hafez Al Medlej, has denied he will offer fellow candidate, the UAE’s Yousuf Al Sarkal, his support if he drops out of the vote.

However, he has admitted to having closer ties with Al Sarkal, the president of the UAE Football Association, than the other two election hopefuls.

Saudi Arabia’s Al Medlej is running for election alongside Al Sarkal, Bahrain’s Shaikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa and Thailand’s Worawi Makudi.

He says he’s only doing so as a peacemaker between regional rivals Al Sarkal and Al Khalifa and will only stay in the race if they both pull out. That implies he will take his support to a favoured candidate just before the vote.

But he denied he was about to pick sides when questioned by press at the UAE FA headquarters in Al Khawaneej on Monday, where he was present to unveil details of the Asian Champions League’s addition to the Pro Evolution Soccer video-game series.

“Of course,” said Al Medlej, when asked if he would remain neutral. “Both Yousuf and Shaikh Salman are brothers and even Worawi, we are all brothers.

“I don’t have the vote of Saudi Arabia so I am free of choosing one of them. But in the last few months I have had a great relationship with Yousuf.

“He extended his hand to me and offered his resignation in favour of me if Shaikh Salman resigns and that’s a big thing Yousuf has done and it’s a favour that I cannot forget.

“So I have to say that Yousuf is closer to me than anyone else now because of his approach to this situation. Whoever wins is a brother but for me Al Sarkal has been closer,” he said.

Of the allegations of corruption and overlooking torture against Shaikh Salman, Al Medlej said: “I’ve known Shaikh Salman for a long time and he’s a very admirable gentleman and a great friend of mine. But he is the only one who can answer anything related to him. Whatever I say doesn’t matter. He is the only one who has a chance and the right to speak about it.

“Now everybody is talking about corruption, whether it’s Fifa or the AFC or anywhere, without hard evidence it’s easy to talk. Nobody has allowed corruption. Everybody is against it. If there is a war against it I would be the first soldier,” he added.