- Associated Press - Thursday, January 8, 2015

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) - Asia’s sports powerbrokers have reaffirmed their support for Sepp Blatter’s bid for a fifth consecutive term as FIFA president, dealing a blow to Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein’s aspirations for the job.

Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa told a news conference Friday that his organization will not reverse its previously pledged support for Blatter, even after the Jordanian prince’s decision to stand for the FIFA presidency.

“Everybody is aware that during the general assembly in 2013 and 2014, the AFC congress has decided to support Blatter for the fifth term,” Al Khalifa said. “All the member associations are committed to that, and from what I heard from them today and the last few days, they will continue to their promise onward.”

The 39-year-old Prince Ali, a FIFA vice president, announced his candidature for the FIFA election earlier this week, before leaving for Australia to attend the Asian Cup. The FIFA election will be held May 29.

Sheikh Salman said Prince Ali had not sought the backing of the Asian football authorities before announcing his candidacy.

“Nobody has consulted us before regarding this nominee,” Sheikh Salman said. “And if there is a nominee from the Asian confederation, it has to be supported by the Asian confederation with the consultation of the executive committee and the member associations, not by an individual.”

Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah of Kuwait, head of the Olympic Council of Asia and one of the continent’s most powerful sports officials, said Blatter deserves another term.

“We decided in the (AFC) general assembly to support Blatter. So now Prince Ali has to consider that, and he has to think about this matter a lot,” Skeikh Ahmad said.

The comments were made on the sidelines of an AFC congress in Melbourne, hours ahead of the Asian Cup opener between Australia and Kuwait in Melbourne.

Prince Ali attended the congress, but declined requests for comment.

While Sheikh Ahmad does not have a vote within the AFC, his Olympic committee has powerful influence in the region.

He said Kuwait’s vote would be going to Blatter.

“It’s (Prince Ali’s) decision,” he said. “He took this decision without telling anybody or waiting for anybody to give his review or idea. So he has to decide.”

Ironically Prince Ali, elected by Asian members to the FIFA vice-presidency in January 2011, has wide support in Europe but not Asia, while that situation is reversed for the European Blatter.

The Oceania Football Confederation, comprising New Zealand and the Pacific nations, has already said it will support Blatter.

The 78-year-old Blatter has welcomed Prince Ali’s challenge as “beneficial for debate.”

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