Activists Urge Asia football Chief Sheikh Salman to Resign as AFC Admits “Conflict of Interest”

2019-01-28 - 10:10 م

Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Activists have called for Asia's football chief, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, to resign after the body admitted for the first time that the Bahraini royal family member has a "conflict of interest" in regard to his jailed compatriot, Hakeem Al-Araibi, South China Morning Post newspaper reported.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) issued a press release on Saturday - its first official statement on Al-Araibi 60 days after he was arrested by Thai authorities - saying it was working with Fifa, the Thai FA and Australia's governing body on the issue.

However, the statement was slammed because it failed to call for Al-Araibi's release, nor did it condemn his detention, especially after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued a statement on the same day, describing the player's detention as "worrying" and calling for his return to Australia - where he was granted asylum in 2014 after he fled Bahrain.

Brendan Schwab, executive director of athlete support group World Players Association, commented on AFC statement via a tweet in which he said that the statement was 60 days late, but with Sheikh Salman out of the way (for now), it is essential that AFC helps save Hakeem.

"The Sheikh's admitted conflict of interest surely disqualifies him from office. Football leaders are now legally obliged to champion human rights, not turn a blind eye," he added.

He also said, with Salman officially not involved in the matter, the AFC can actively pursue his release.

Andrew Orsatti, of global players' union FIFPro said the AFC president was trying to wash his hands of Al-Araib.

Former Australian captain Craig Foster has been the face of the "Save Hakeem" campaign, with the support of an army of supporters and activists.

International Olympic Committee said in its statement that "[Thomas Bach] the IOC president has personally discussed this worrying situation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees," adding that  "The High Commissioner also expressed that UNHCR is very concerned about this case since Al-Araibi is a recognised refugee and should be allowed to return to Australia. We will continue to monitor this case closely."

Save Hakeem campaign comes at an embarrassing time for Salman, who is also the vice president of FIFA, head of AFC Champions League and AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.

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