KUALA LUMPUR: The head of Asian football Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa is poised to announce a bid for the FIFA presidency, a source told AFP on Friday, in a move that would dramatically reshape the election race.
A bid by the Bahraini royal would be another major blow to already suspended vice-president Michel Platini, whom he formerly backed for the FIFA job, and his Asian rival Prince Ali bin alHussein of Jordan.
FIFA has been thrown into turmoil with outgoing chief Sepp Blatter, former favourite Platini and South Korean candidate Chung Mong-Joon all suspended, and corruption allegations engulfing the world body.
Despite mounting sleaze claims and criminal charges against senior figures including Blatter, FIFA elections are still planned to go ahead on February 26 with Platini among the candidates who have until October 26 to register.
The other potential contenders make up a varied group that includes Brazil’s Zico, former FIFA deputy secretary general Jerome Champagne and South African anti-apartheid campaigner Tokyo Sexwale.
Shaikh Salman is also an unshakeable supporter of Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup, whose controversial bidding process was the subject of an internal FIFA investigation.
The Manchester United fan and one-time accountancy drop-out drifted between careers and even had a spell as a customs officer before turning his hand to football administration.
Backed by Kuwaiti powerbroker Sheikh Ahmad alFahad alSabah, he won a landslide election in 2013 to succeed disgraced Qatari Mohamed bin Hammam as president of the Asian Football Confederation.
In April, he strengthened his grip when he won a fresh four-year term unopposed and became a FIFA vice-president.
He is also president of the Association of National Olympic Committees, which has more than 200 members, and chairs the Olympic Solidarity Commission, which hands out grants for athletes and sports development.