FFA's support of AFC president Sheikh Salman sickening, says Foster

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Despite his links to the Hakeem Al-Araibi affair, Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman Ibrahim Al-Khalifa will be supported in his re-election bid by Australia.

The FFA confirmed on Tuesday it will join with fellow ASEAN Football Federation nations in backing Sheikh Salman in the April 6 election in Malaysia.

The decision to back the Bahraini royal family member comes in the wake of Al-Araibi's detention in Thailand.

Ex-Socceroo captain Craig Foster, who campaigned publicly for Al-Araibi's release, said the FFA support was "sickening".

"That Australia could even contemplate voting for such a candidate makes a mockery of any discussion of fundamental values within the game," Foster said in a statement.

"The conduct of Salman during the incarceration of Hakeem was unconscionable."

The Bahraini-born Australian player was detained in Thailand during his honeymoon in November and threatened with extradition to his country of birth.

Al-Araibi was granted asylum and refugee status in Australia after fleeing Bahrain following his imprisonment alleged torture there in 2012 after speaking out persecution and torture of other footballers who had demonstrated against the ruling regime during the Bahraini uprising of 2011.

Sheikh Salman came under criticism during Al-Araibi's detention for not using his position as AFC president to help an international effort for his release.

Al-Araibi, who has since received Australian citizenship, returned to Australia in February after a concerted effort including FFA representation to secure his release.

FFA chairman Chris Nikou said the association was "acutely aware" of the concerns about Sheikh Salman's association with the Al-Araibi affair.

"During this time we were in regular dialogue with the AFC, FIFA and the Australian Government to ensure appropriate steps were taken to support efforts for Hakeem's release and we did this privately by lobbying those in positions of influence and ultimately, through the work of many, the right outcome was achieved," Nikou said in a statement.

The decision to support Sheikh Salman was based on his previous work in the role.

It was also felt by the ASEAN federations that the Bahraini was better credentialed than his opponents Mohamed Khalfan Al Romaithi from the United Arab Emirates and Qatar's Saoud A.Aziz A Al-Mohannadi.

"Under the leadership of the Sheikh Salman, the size of the AFC Asian Cup has expanded, the FIFA World Cup qualification process has broadened, new football development initiatives have been introduced, prize money and subsidies for clubs participating in the AFC Champions League have increased and significantly improved terms were secured with AFC's new marketing rights partner," Nikou said.

Source AAP