AFC candidate urges probe into vote interference
One of the top candidates to become Asian football's next leader called Monday for an investigation into allegations of vote-buying and interference which have surfaced before this week's vote.
Yousef Al Serkal told AFP that the "serious" allegations needed to be probed and he warned that he could launch an appeal if his bid for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) presidency fails.
The UAE football chief was referring to claims that the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) tried to influence the AFC's 2009 presidential vote on behalf of Bahrain's Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, who is standing again this week.
Media reports have said the OCA has again been active ahead of Thursday's vote in Kuala Lumpur by accompanying Sheikh Salman on his election travels and block-booking hotel rooms in the Malaysian capital.
"We need to investigate these allegations... I urge FIFA to intervene, I urge our (AFC) disciplinary committee to act. These allegations are serious," Serkal said.
"This has to be investigated. As a vice president of the AFC, as a candidate, I appeal to the relevant bodies to react, investigate and find out who is trying to influence and manipulate our vote."
A video report on the Inside World Football site showed two AFC delegates alleging interference by the Kuwait-based OCA in the 2009 vote, which Sheikh Salman lost to Qatar's Mohamed bin Hammam.
On Monday one of Al Serkal's rivals, Hafez Ibrahim Al Medlej, suggested both the OCA and world body FIFA had brought influence to bear on the election process.
"For me I wish always Asia to decide for itself, without interference from other organisations like the OCA or FIFA, or any other organisation. It should be an Asian matter," Medlej told AFP.
Medlej added that he was considering pulling out of the election this week in order not to split the Middle East vote. Of the four candidates, Thailand's Worawi Makudi is the only one not from West Asia.
However, Serkal said he was in a "strong" position and believed he would win the vote if it goes to a second round. He also expressed concern over claims that Sheikh Salman was linked to the persecution of footballers in Bahrain.
"I am a man who believes in the freedom of rights," he said.
The Bahraini royal has been forced on to the defensive over allegations, which he has strongly denied, that he oversaw the arrest of players and officials who took part in pro-democracy protests in 2011.
The AFC is electing a successor to bin Hammam, who was accused of bribery during the 2011 FIFA presidential vote as well as financial wrongdoing during his time in office. He stepped down last year.
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