FIFA's Asian Football Chief Re-Elected Despite Outcry After Hakeem Al-Araibi Case
FIFA President Gianni Infantino has hailed the re-election of Asian football chief Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, saying it will help the region move forward in stability.
Bahrain's Sheikh Salman returned unopposed in the Asian Football Confederation's presidential election on Saturday after Mohammed Khalfan Al Romaithi of the United Arab Emirates and Saoud Al Mohannadi of Qatar withdrew last month.
Sheikh Salman was elected AFC president in 2013 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 his position by signing a new commercial rights deal in 2018, expanding tournaments and increasing the money going back to member federations.
Infantino told the AFC Congress that the no-contest was "important to show a united football family in Asia and to move forward in stability."
He thanked the AFC for its support and stressed his commitment to expand football in the region.
Infantino also reiterated negotiations were ongoing with Qatar to increase the number of World Cup teams from 32 to 48 in the 2022 tournament.
FIFA and Qatar are still analysing the prospect of boosting world soccer by adding another 16 teams, with the possibility of Qatar co-hosting with neighbouring nations.
"It will be a nice achievement if the first World Cup with 48 teams is played in Asia," Infantino said.
The push to increase the number of teams in 2022 is fraught with political and logistical impediments as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and non-Gulf state Egypt had cut political, trade, and transport ties with Qatar since mid-2017.
They accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism, which it denies.