Bahrain's Sheikh Salman enters FIFA race

Bahrain's Sheikh Salman enters FIFA race
The Bahraini prince's candidacy for the presidency of football's international governing body, announced on Monday, has drawn criticism from rights groups critical of his alleged association with abuses in Bahrain.
3 min read
26 October, 2015
Salman is one of seven who have declared their candidacies for the post [Getty]
Bahraini royal Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa is standing for the FIFA presidency, a move announced on Monday that will put his human rights record under renewed scrutiny.

The Asian Football Confederation said Sheikh Salman, the body's president, has the "overwhelming support" of its executive committee.

The confederation said it had been assured that the sheikh's "campaign will be entirely self-financed and that he will not use the AFC's resources, human or otherwise, in the election".

The 49-year-old Sheikh Salman is one of seven contenders who have declared their candidacies before Monday's filing deadline for the February 26 election. They are vying to replace Sepp Blatter, as the governing body tries to move beyond serious corruption allegations.

Criticism of Salman's past

FIFA's election oversight committee was quickly urged by rights groups to reject Sheikh Salman as a candidate when it conducts integrity checks required by election rules.

Salman challenged critics to present proof of wrongdoing, which he denies, and suggested such questions are about politics, not soccer

Questions have been raised over whether Sheikh Salman adequately protected Bahrain national team players after some took part in pro-democracy protests in 2011.

Some players say they were tortured while detained by government forces when the sheikh was head of the Bahrain Football Association.

"Sheikh Salman played a key role in Bahrain's retaliation against athlete-protesters," the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy and Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain said in a joint statement.

"Throughout the government crackdown, he allegedly examined photographs of the protesters, identifying Bahraini athletes for the security forces."

He previously challenged critics to present proof of wrongdoing, which he denies, and suggested that such questions have to do with politics and not soccer.

Human Rights Watch Gulf researcher Nicholas McGeehan said electing a member of Bahrain's royal family to lead FIFA would "only further tarnish the organisation's image".

Sheikh Salman faced similar questions when he was elected president of the Asian soccer confederation in a landslide victory in May 2013, winning a seat on the FIFA executive committee.

He previously supported the presidential campaign of Michel Platini, the UEFA president who was a strong favourite until 25 September - when a Swiss criminal investigation against Blatter for a "disloyal payment" was announced.

Platini allegedly received two million Swiss francs (about $2 million) approved by Blatter from FIFA funds in 2011, which they say, was for advisory work done at least nine years earlier.

Both have said there was no contract for the payment.

Platini seems unlikely to stand in the election after he and Blatter were both given 90-day suspensions.

In a 2 October statement, Sheikh Salman said FIFA needed "a firm hand to run the world body competently and with a determination to conduct its affairs professionally and with maximum transparency".

Other candidates vying for the FIFA job include Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, South African tycoon Tokyo Sexwale, former FIFA official Jerome Champagne, Liberian soccer association president Musa Bility and David Nakhid, a former player from Trinidad and Tobago.
 
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