FIFA President Sepp Blatter speaks at the 26th Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Congress in Manama, Bahrain– Reuters
MANAMA (Reuters): FIFA president Sepp Blatter praised the president of the Asian Football Confederation Shaikh Salman of Bahrain for “cleaning up” the confederation in a speech to delegates at the AFC’s congress recently.
Blatter, 79, who is seeking a fifth term as FIFA president in next month’s election, gave an uncharacteristically low-key speech and again used his favourite shipping analogy to describe the progress made by the confederation since former AFC president Mohamed Bin Hammam was banned for life two years ago.
Bin Hammam was kicked out of soccer for his part in a bribery scandal in 2011 and was replaced in 2013 by Shaikh Salman, who was re-elected as AFC president unopposed.
Blatter told delegates from the 47 Asian nations that Salman had shown “a remarkable sense of organisation and diplomacy to bring back the boat of the AFC that at certain times has been in waters not so very clear and not so very clean.”
Blatter, addressing Salman, who is supporting Blatter in his quest to be re-elected FIFA president next month, continued: “You have brought back this boat since 2013 and it is only justice when this congress later on will re-elect you as leader of the AFC. You merit a big compliment, Shaikh Salman.”
Blatter’s support for the Bahraini was only to be expected as Salman declared the AFC’s support for Blatter after its extra-ordinary congress in Australia in January.
However, Blatter’s speech lacked his usual vibrancy and at the end he received warm, rather than overwhelming applause from the delegates.
He was the only candidate who was given the floor to address delegates because the other three presidential runners – PrinceAli Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, Luis Figo of Portugal and Dutch FA President Michael van Praag– wererefused permission to speak.
All three were in the congress hall with Prince Ali sitting on the podium as an Asian vice-president on FIFA’s executive committee.
Being in Asia, Blatter quoted Chinese philosopher Confucius to illustrate his oft-repeated themes of solidarity and unity and highlighted the ongoing “belligerent acts” that are affecting Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria among others.
“But football is still being played there,” he said, although the Syrian team Al-Jaish played an AFC Cup ‘home’ match against Al-Riffa at the national stadium in Manama on Wednesday.