Asia seeks to sideline Kuwait in power struggle

KUALA LUMPUR - Asia's football chiefs want to bar Kuwait from a key regional power vote on Friday for federation irregularities.

The Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) decision-makers on Thursday recommended the Middle Eastern nation should not be allowed to vote at Friday's AFC congress, a source with knowledge of the decision told Reuters.

The AFC said the formation of Kuwait's football federation did not conform to its statutes and was therefore ineligible to take part in polls to decide West Asia's representative on the executive committee of world soccer's governing body FIFA.

Bahrain's Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa is challenging incumbent and AFC president Mohamed Bin Hammam for the FIFA seat. Bin Hammam has vowed to also step down as AFC boss if defeated.

The poll is scheduled for Friday in the Malaysian capital.

The AFC congress will first vote to ratify or otherwise the AFC executive committee's stance on Kuwait.

In a recent letter to the AFC, FIFA said it found "no legal basis" to suspend Kuwait, but the AFC stood by its decision, insisting the way the Kuwaiti board was formed breached rules.

Sheikh Salman, who had been assured of Kuwait's backing, expressed disappointment at the committee's recommendation and urged AFC members to back Kuwait ahead of Friday's vote.

"I think they've already decided Kuwait will not be allowed to vote," he told Reuters.

"Their initial decision to prevent Kuwait from voting was wrong in the first place and FIFA has already said this.

"The AFC members should consider this and make the right decision."

The AFC panel also recommended four other countries - East Timor, Laos, Afghanistan and Mongolia - be permitted to vote on Friday.

The five had been in doubt for not participating in the recommended number of AFC sanctioned competitions.