Head of Asian soccer running unopposed for new term

Bahraini Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, AFC's incumbent president who is unopposed for a new term. (AP Photo/Michael Probst, File)
Updated 05 April 2019

Head of Asian soccer running unopposed for new term

  • Sheikh Salman was elected AFC president in 2013, completing the 4-year term of his predecessor
  • He was elected to his first four-year term in 2015

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: The Asian Football Confederation holds its presidential election on Saturday with incumbent Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain standing unopposed for a new term.
With soccer politics in the region fractured, it was expected that the election in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, would be fiercely-contested when Mohammed Khalfan Al Romaithi of the United Arab Emirates and Saoud Al Mohannadi of Qatar decided to run.
But both withdrew last month, leaving Sheikh Salman unopposed.
Sheikh Salman was elected AFC president in 2013. He took over from acting president Zhang Jilong of China after Mohammed bin Hammam of Qatar was banned for life for corruption by world governing body FIFA. He was elected to his first four-year term in 2015.
Sheikh Salman cemented this position by signing a new commercial rights deal in 2018, expanding tournaments and increasing the money going back to member federations.
“The other candidates realized that they did not stand a chance against Salman,” James Dorsey, senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, told the Associated Press. He is the author of “The Turbulent World Of Middle East Soccer.”
“There was no real reason for ambitious Gulf powers like Saudi Arabia to oppose Salman,” he said.
Dorsey said in the past six years there has been little attempt to introduce transparency or reform into Asian soccer politics, a policy that has not harmed the chances of Sheikh Salman. He was defeated in the 2016 FIFA presidential election by Gianni Infantino.
Infantino has also been faulted for not doing enough to clean up the sport following the massive FIFA corruption scandal in 2015.
Divisions in Asian soccer remain. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have all boycotted Qatar since June 2017, cutting off diplomatic relations with the country. Such tensions cast a shadow over the Asian Cup that was held in January in the UAE and won by Qatar.
Despite such issues even Qatar has publicly backed Salman. Seemingly out of the equation are Japan and South Korea — the traditional soccer powers in the region — and China.
The Qatar Football Association said in a statement on March 28 that “we are fully confident he (Sheikh Salman) will guide Asia as one unit in all forthcoming matters.”
 


Russia banned from Olympics, World Cup over doping

Updated 09 December 2019

Russia banned from Olympics, World Cup over doping

  • WADA's executive committee handed Russia the four-year suspension
  • Under the sanctions, Russian sportsmen and women will still be allowed to compete at the Olympics next year

LAUSANNE: The World Anti-Doping Agency on Monday banned Russia for four years from major global sporting events including the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, over manipulated doping data.
WADA's executive committee, meeting in Lausanne, handed Russia the four-year suspension after accusing Moscow of falsifying laboratory doping data handed over to investigators earlier this year.
Not only will Russia be ruled out of the next Olympic cycle, but Russian government officials will be barred from attending any major events, while the country will lose the right to host, or even bid, for tournaments.
"WADA's executive committee approved unanimously to assert a non-compliance on the Russian anti-doping agency for a period of four years," WADA spokesman James Fitzgerald said.
Under the sanctions, Russian sportsmen and women will still be allowed to compete at the Olympics next year and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics but only if they can demonstrate that they were not part of what WADA believes was a state-sponsored system of doping.
It will be up to FIFA to stipulate how a team of Russian players can take part in the qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup.
Euro 2020, in which the Russian city of Saint Petersburg will host four matches, is not affected by the ban because it is not defined as a "major event" for anti-doping purposes.
"They are going to have prove they had nothing to do with the non-compliance, (that) they were not involved in the doping schemes as described by the McLaren report, or they did not have their samples affected by the manipulation," Fitzgerald said.
The independent report by sports lawyer Richard McLaren, released in 2016, revealed the significant extent of state-sponsored doping in Russia, notably between 2011 and 2015.
It led to the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) being suspended for nearly three years previously over revelations of a vast state-supported doping programme.
Full disclosure of data from the Moscow laboratory was a key condition of Russia's controversial reinstatement by WADA in September 2018.
RUSADA chief Yury Ganus told AFP Monday that his country had "no chance" of winning an appeal against the ban, dubbing it tragic for clean athletes.
"There is no chance of winning this case in court," Ganus said, with RUSADA's supervisory board set to meet on December 19 to take a decision on whether to appeal the ban.
"This is a tragedy," he added. "Clean athletes are seeing their rights limited."
The WADA decision was widely predicted, with the body's president, Craig Reedie, having made a presentation Saturday to the Olympic Summit, participants of which "strongly condemned those responsible for the manipulation of the data from the Moscow laboratory".
"It was agreed that this was an attack on sport and that these actions should lead to the toughest sanctions against those responsible," the IOC said, asking that the Russian authorities deliver the "fully authenticated raw data".
Positive doping tests contained in data leaked by a whistleblower in 2017 were missing from the laboratory data supplied in January 2019, which prompted a new inquiry.
Former WADA president Dick Pound, who chaired the commission that in 2015 made damning accusations of mass doping in Russian athletics, said Moscow had this time gone "too far".
"The IOC is a little bit tired about what Russia has been doing and so I see the IOC probably focusing more on athletes who are newer," Pound told AFP.
Pound acknowledged the influential role of Russia -- which in recent years hosted the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics as well as the football World Cup in 2018 -- "on many levels" in the sporting world.
"On the field of play, it is a big, important country. With China and the United States, it's among the sporting giants, so that's influential," he said.
"It's (also) influential because Russia hosts and is willing to host many competitions for international federations, especially those who don't have much money of their own, so they have a considerable influence among the international federations.
"And they've been quite strategic about making sure that they get Russians into positions on international federations. So they have an impact from inside as well as from outside."