By Michael Church
HONGKONG (Reuters) – Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa will govern Asian soccer for another four years after his final challenger for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) presidency withdrew his candidacy on Thursday.
Qatar’s Saoud Al Mohannadi pulled out of the election for the regional body’s top post and announced his support for Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman, a week after Mohammad Khalfan Al Romaithi also withdrew.
Sheikh Salman, who says he has the support of as many as 40 of the AFC’s 47 member associations, will now stand unopposed in the election at the AFC congress in Kuala Lumpur next Saturday.
“I, personally, and the Qatar Football Association, will continue to support Sheikh Salman in the role of AFC president,” Al Mohannadi said in a statement posted on the Qatar Football Association’s website.
“We are fully confident he will guide Asia as one unit in all forthcoming matters.”
Al Mohannadi’s withdrawal had been expected following Al Romaithi’s announcement last Thursday.
The new four-year term will extend Sheikh Salman’s reign at the AFC to 2023, with the Bahraini royal first claiming the post in 2013 following Mohammed bin Hammam’s ban from all football activities by FIFA.
(Reporting by Michael Church, editing by Toby Davis)