FIFA Presidential candidate Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa has slammed accusations he was complicit in the torture and arrests of Bahraini athletes in 2011 as “nasty lies” as he bids to detach himself from allegations which have threatened to derail his attempt to replace Sepp Blatter.
Human rights campaigners in the country claim the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President sat on a committee which identified more than 150 athletes allegedly involved in pro-democracy demonstrations.
Many of these sportspeople were then subjected to arrests and torture and the accusations prompted the International Trade Union of Confederations to express “deep concern” about him standing in the FIFA Presidential Race.
Sheikh Salman, elected AFC President in 2013, has strenuously denied the claims which have cast a shadow over his bid to take over at the helm of world football’s governing body at next year’s Extraordinary Elective Congress.
“I cannot deny something that I haven’t done,” he told BBC Sport.
“Such accusations are not just damaging, it’s really hurting.
“Some people have agenda on their table.
“It’s not just damaging me, it’s damaging the people and the country.
“These are false, nasty lies that have been repeated again and again in the past and the present.”
The AFC chief also revealed he would not take a salary should he be elected and that he supports limiting Presidents to three terms of four years.
“With the support I’m going to get we’re going to turn it around very quick,” he added.
“We have big examples of football organisations around the world – the Premier League, the Bundesliga, even UEFA who from a football side and a revenue side are handled in a very professional way.
“And this is what we want to bring to FIFA.”
Sheikh Salman’s comments come after he officially submitted his candidacy for the FIFA Presidency only hours before yesterday’s deadline following confusion as to whether he was definitely throwing his hat into the ring.
It had been suggested he may step aside after UEFA secretary general Gianni Infantino, a multilingual lawyer, was put forward by UEFA’s Executive Committee.
Sheikh Salman was thought to have the backing of European football’s governing body, led by disgraced President Michel Platini, who has been banned for 90 days for his involvement in an alleged “disloyal” payment made to him by Blatter.
The Frenchman, though, may still be able to stand if he is not under any sanctions before the scheduled election date of February 26.
Infantino and Sheikh Salman became the seventh and eighth candidates for the FIFA Presidency following South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale, a former anti-apartheid campaigner once imprisoned alongside the late Nelson Mandela but who has been closely linked to Blatter, announcing his intention to run on Sunday (October 25).
Jordanian Football Association President Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, who lost out to the Swiss earlier this year, is also running, as is Frenchman Jérôme Champagne, who attempted to enter this year’s race but failed to secure the required nominations.
Former Trinidad and Tobago player David Nakhid is standing, as well as Liberian Football Association head Musa Bility.
By Liam Morgan; this article was republished with permission from the original publisher Inside the Games www.insidethegames.biz