Prince Ali bin Al Hussein has savaged plans to hand his current role as FIFA vice-president to Asia’s football boss in a row which threatens to plunge regional soccer into a fresh round of infighting.
In an open letter, the Jordanian royal “strongly opposed” the proposal backed by Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, which will be put to the vote in June.
“I stand firm by my conviction that all sport… should be free from politics and completely devoid of politicos and self-interest individuals and groups that exploit the sport and all its stakeholders for their own personal gains,” Prince Ali wrote.
Four of football’s six global confederations combine the role of regional president and FIFA vice-president, with the AFC and South America’s CONMEBOL the two exceptions.
Bahrain’s Shaikh Salman was elected as permanent replacement for the scandal-tainted Mohamed bin Hammam last year in a move warmly welcomed by FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
Shaikh Salman will now seek a change in AFC statutes to merge the Asian presidency with the FIFA vice presidency. He is expected to seek re-election as AFC boss next year.
Jordan’s Prince Ali, 38, was elected as one of the eight FIFA vice-presidents to a four-year term in January 2011.
He said the proposal to combine the two roles, which would take effect next year, was convincingly beaten at the AFC Congress where Shaikh Salman was elected last May.
“I am truly surprised that this proposal has resurfaced in the past few months, led vigorously by the current AFC president,” the prince said in his letter released on Wednesday.
“It is unfortunate that the direction taken by the AFC president and other AFC officials is one driven purely by politics instead of focusing our energies and valuable time to improving the game in Asia,” he added.
No immediate comment was available from Shaikh Salman but the AFC said the proposal will be put to the vote at an extraordinary Congress in Sao Paulo on June 9, ahead of the World Cup.
The AFC has had internal troubles in recent years after bin Hammam was accused of bribery during his 2011 campaign for the FIFA presidency, and later of financial wrongdoing while in office.
At last year’s presidential election, Shaikh Salman shrugged off allegations of human rights violations targeting Bahraini pro-democracy supporters to record a landslide win.