Kuala Lumpur: There is a buzz in the air around the lounge of Mandarin Hotel in the Malaysian capital at the moment. With the delegates of all member bodies of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) checking in and the president’s election less than 48 hours away, it seems to be the most open contest in a long time.
Reserved tables for the workers belonging to the respective camps of the four candidates have been set apart and rumours about last-minute surprises, as well as pullouts, were doing the rounds.
Observers and former members of the AFC have never been as divided as before than current scenario with the Kuwaiti support to Bahrain nominee Shaikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, who is running for the Presidency against the UAE’s Yousuf Al Sarkal, Saudi Arabian Dr Hafiz Al Medlej and Thailand’s Worawi Makudi.
The winner of this election will, however, be in office till 2015 to complete the term of former President Mohammad Bin Hammam before re-entering the new elections.
Shaikh Tilal Al Fahad, Chairman of Kuwait FA, confirmed upon arriving late on Monday that he will be running for the AFC presidency in 2015 - which explains the support extended by his brother Shaikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah (President of the Olympic Council of Asia) to Shaikh Salman in what would be the interim period.
Shaikh Fahad and his brother are well aware that Al Sarkal is their most serious opponent not only to win these elections but is capable of retaining his place for more than the two years - which will thwart Shaikh Tilal’s ambitions to reign over the continent’s football.
The smear campaign they started to damage the reputation and chances of Al Sarkal included sending letters to Fifa and the AFC members, claiming that it was basically Al Sarkal who was behind the reports of bribes they paid in the 2009 elections.
“Neither Fifa nor the members of the AFC will be deceived by these accusations,” Al Sarkal said.
“Shaikh Ahmad is doing what he does best - attracting the attention of the media,” a former member of the AFC for more than 20 years told Gulf News.
“He did the same in the elections four years ago that Bin Hammam won, But Shaikh Ahmad had his fair share of spotlight.”
However, a number of leading sports officials of the continent, including some from the Gulf states, are expected to run against Shaikh Ahmad in the 2015 OCA elections. While Shaikh Tilal later denied his intention of running for the AFC Presidency in 2015, despite the reporters having it on tape, that the two brothers: Shaikh Tilal and Shaikh Ahmad want to extend their reign over the two most important sports organisations in Asia.
Gulf News sources, meanwhile, confirmed that Saudi Arabia will also run for the OCA presidency in 2015. The Saudi camp have, so far, kept silent despite having a candidate in Dr Al Medlej for the AFC presidency, and are believed to be unhappy with the running of the OCA.