FIFA presidential candidate Sheikh Salman has claimed allegations of human rights abuses against him are “nasty lies” which are part of an agenda against him.
The Asian Football Confederation president is one of eight candidates battling to replace Sepp Blatter in February, but his bid has been hurt by accusations that he was complicit in the detention of footballers and other athletes while head of the Bahrain Football Association.
“I cannot deny something that I haven’t done,” Salman told BBC Sport. “Such accusations are not just damaging, it’s really hurting. Some people have agenda on their table.
“It’s not just damaging me, it’s damaging the people and the country. These are false, nasty lies that have been repeated again and again in the past and the present.”
The allegations date back to the crackdown which followed pro-democracy protests in Bahrain in 2011.
Salman, who backs both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to go ahead in Russia and Qatar respectively, has said he will clean up FIFA’s battered reputation if elected.
“With the support I’m going to get we’re going to turn it around very quick,” he said. “We have big examples of football organisations around the world – the Premier League, the Bundesliga, even UEFA who have from a football side and a revenue side, it is not even greater than FIFA, but it is handled in a very professional way. And this is what we want to bring to FIFA.”
Salman will be up against Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan, former Trinidad and Tobago player David Nakhid, former FIFA deputy general secretary Jerome Champagne, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino, and Liberian FA president Musa Bility.
UEFA president Michel Platini, the one-time favourite for the job, has submitted his candidacy but is currently banned for 90 days pending a disciplinary hearing into a £1.3m payment signed off by outgoing president Sepp Blatter in 2011.
Another former player, Brazil’s Zico, was forced to call an end to his hopes after failing to secure five nominations before the deadline of 11pm Irish time on Monday evening.