Asian football’s leader Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa has become the sixth candidate to submit his candidacy for the FIFA presidential election, according to the official Bahrain news agency.
Sheikh Salman, who is from Bahrain, is said to have submitted his nominations to FIFA on Sunday night despite opposition from human rights groups.
His entry into the election throws the contest wide open – he had previously backed UEFA president Michel Platini until his suspension, commands widespread support in Asia and is a close ally of influential Olympic powerbroker Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah from Kuwait.
Platini is still hopeful of being able to run despite being suspended by FIFA’s ethics committee for 90 days pending a disciplinary hearing into a £1.3m payment signed off by outgoing president Sepp Blatter in 2011.
The other candidates announced so far are: South Africa’s Tokyo Sexwale, a former anti-apartheid activist who was imprisoned on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela; Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan; David Nakhid, former Trinidad and Tobago player; and former FIFA deputy general secretary Jerome Champagne.
Sheikh Salman is a member of the Bahrain royal family and has attracted opposition from human rights organisations due to the regime’s role in the suppression of the country’s pro-democracy demonstrations in 2011.