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Thailand’s Makudi to Run for AFC Presidency

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Sport & Culture

Thailand’s Makudi to Run for AFC Presidency

Thailand’s Worawi Makudi wants to head the Asian Football Confederation. Will his past get in the way?

Anything can happen in Asian football and it just did. The head of the Football Association of Thailand (FAT) Worawi Makudi has officially entered the race to become the next president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

The election will be held May 2 and Makudi, a controversial figure, is likely to run against four other candidates. The position has been vacant since May 2011, when Mohamed Bin Hammam from Qatar was suspended on allegations of vote-buying in a FIFA election against Sepp Blatter.

The Qatari, who held Asia's top job from 2002, fought the ban but in December 2012 he retired from the game on receiving a life ban from FIFA.

Zhang Jilong of China has been the acting president since Bin Hammam’s departure, but Makudi wants the permanent job. Seen as a close ally of Bin Hammam, Makudi must convince a majority of the confederation's 46 members to vote for him.

He has already received unanimous support at a meeting with all 11 members of Southeast Asia’s regional grouping, the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF).

AFF President Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah said: "…we examined our unity and solidarity and have decided to be united in choosing a leader for Asia. I am sure Dato' Worawi Makudi will do everything he can to further the needs of the AFC and their member associations."

Makudi has also reached out to try and win support from the eight-member South Asian Football Federation. If he succeeds, he would have 19 votes, which is a considerable base to work with.

"I will do my utmost to serve the ASEAN family members," Makudi said. "My main target as the AFC president would be to bring everybody together and to unite the Asian Football Confederation."

That is no easy task. Asian football politics are notoriously murky. National associations focus on themselves first, their regions second and the continent third.

It remains to be seen if Makudi's past will be a factor in the election.

In 2011, he was accused of spending an $860,000 FIFA grant to develop football in Thailand to develop instead land he personally owns. FIFA investigated before eventually clearing him of any wrongdoing.

In 2012, Makudi and FAT were investigated for using the Thai Premier League to generate profits – something the body is not allowed to do.

Lord Triesman of England, who was involved with England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup, accused Makudi of demanding personal ownership of the television rights for a proposed friendly match between the national teams of Thailand and England.

Makudi's conduct is going to come under increased scrutiny over the next few weeks. After the scandal-ridden events of the past 18 months, it seems unlikely that he has a chance to win the election. But in Asian football, you never quite know.