DUBAI // Hosting the World Cup in Asia in either 2018 or 2022 is "a priority" for Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, the Bahrain FA president who is bidding to become West Asia's Fifa executive committee representative. Sheikh Salman is challenging the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Mohamed bin Hammam, of Qatar, for his seat on Fifa's main decision-making body. If he is successful, he will lobby the governing body to bring the international game's main event to Asia for the first time since Japan and South Korea co-hosted it in 2002.
Four Asian nations - Qatar, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea - plus Australia, who are also now part of the AFC, are set to tender bids for the 2018 event. The vote will be taken in December 2010. "It is a priority," said Sheikh Salman. "The tournament staged by Asia in 2002 was a huge success. "A lot of countries are capable of staging a World Cup, and the future is Asia. Football here is huge, and I feel Asia deserves to stage a World Cup in 2018 or 2022."
Sheikh Salman will be well placed to forward Asia's credentials if he does unseat bin Hammam from the executive committee. It is the first time bin Hammam has been challenged since he won the Fifa seat in 1996 - the same year Sheikh Salman was elected Bahrain's national team chairman. When considering the state of football on the continent, Sheikh Salman said: "There is a lot to be done, especially when you consider two-thirds of the world's population are in Asia. There has been a lot of development in this sport in the past in Asia, but more needs to be focused on, as well.
"The level of football in many countries in Asia has developed a lot as well. There aren't any easy teams anymore. "You don't see winning scores by a large margin very often, and if they come they are uncommon. This shows there has been a lot of effort put in to football in Asia. I hope that by hosting a World Cup in 2018 or 2022, it would give more support to focus on the game." Sheikh Salman, a keen Manchester United fan who spent part of his education in London, has garnered much support for his executive committee candidacy already.
Of his decision to stand against bin Hammam, he said: "The question is why not? We are living in a democracy in Asia, and it is the right for any person to run. "If you feel you have support in Asia, and there are countries willing to support you, there is nothing wrong with giving it a try. "He has been there for some time and people will judge him on what he did in the past. I'm sure there are people who approve of his work and there are people who will not.
"In my case, I don't want to talk about what I will be able to do. I have the confidence that I can do things in a different way, hopefully I can win the votes that are opposed to me this time in this term." email@example.com