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September 25, 2017

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Asian soccer president reveals re-election bid

SINGAPORE -- The head of Asian soccer has told AFP he will seek re-election next year as he tries to revamp regional soccer after previous scandals and a disappointing World Cup.

Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said he wants to "set a new course" for Asian soccer and "restore our reputation."

He added that he will push for an extra World Cup slot for Asian teams despite a poor showing at the current tournament in Brazil, when all four representatives departed winless.

Shaikh Salman's re-election bid has been widely expected since he took over last year following the demise of Qatar's tainted Mohamed bin Hammam, who was accused of bribery.

"We are in the beginning stages of a long-term restructuring project and it would be great to personally see it through as I am confident it will greatly benefit the confederation," Shaikh Salman said.

"So yes I would be pleased to continue with the presidency with the support from the member associations," added the Bahraini royal, in response to questions sent via email.

Shaikh Salman won a landslide election last year to complete the third term of bin Hammam, who was barred from soccer after being accused of handing out cash-stuffed envelopes in a bid to be voted FIFA president in 2011.

Bin Hammam has also been accused of giving delegates inducements during Qatar's successful campaign to win hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup.

Shaikh Salman will now seek his first full, four-year term along with Asia's FIFA vice-presidency, after he won an agreement to merge the two powerful posts at an extraordinary AFC congress last month.

"Essentially we are working as one for the development of Asian soccer, and the merger (of the two positions) will complement our goal," Shaikh Salman said.

He promised to push ahead with a campaign, supported by FIFA president Sepp Blatter, to increase Asia's World Cup allocation of four places plus a fifth available through a play-off.

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