By James Crook

df907fddeeApril 8 - United Arab Emirates Football Association chief and current Asian Football Confederation (AFC) vice-president Yousuf Al Serkal has promised to "reunite Asian football" should he be elected as he launched his election manifesto for the AFC Presidency in Dubai today.

Al Serkal emphasised the need to bring football to the forefront once more, claiming: "We are at a time when our stakeholders believe that leaders in the game are only in it for themselves - this must change.

"I want to see an AFC where Football is the first and only topic on our agenda and that is why my campaign slogan is 'Football at Heart'."

Al Serkal made six key campaign pledges, to: reunite Asian Football, improve governance, ensure a balance between professional and amateur football, decentralise AFC activities, balance revenue distribution and embrace the diversity of Asia at AFC House, which is based in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

Asian football has undergone a highly problematic phase littered with accusations of match-fixing, bribery, corruption, illegal betting, and Al Serkal also announced plans to introduce a "whistle blower" programme, which would allow people to anonymously report any suspicious activities regarding integrity.

157175296Al Serkal (right) has promised to clean up Asian football and to have "football at heart" should he win the AFC Presidency race

"If I am successful, I will lead the way to make the AFC much more transparent with improved governance in order that we regain the integrity of the game in Asia," he said.

"It is important that I lead by example, and so I will publically declare all allowances and benefits given to me by the Confederation, and expenditure incurred by my office.

"We have some big challenges ahead but through openness and real dialogue, we have a genuine opportunity to reunite Asian football, achieve positive change and set a course for a brighter future for the whole of football in the region.

"In particular I want to bring Asia towards the World Cup through increased technical development programmes and sound governance.

"It is also critical that we bridge the gap between professional and amateur football across Asia.

"So with a focus on elevating standards in our flagship competitions, it is important that more Member Associations participate in the AFC Asian Cup and AFC Champions League.

"We can do this through more hands on, local development programmes for leagues, clubs, youth and women's football, and this is something I am absolutely committed to."

94884250Bahrain FA technical director Hassan Ismail has claimed that his boss Shaikh Salman is the favourite to win the AFC presidency race.

Al Serkal will face tough competition from competitors such as Shaikh Salman, head of the Bahrain FA, Dr Hafez Al Medlej of Saudi Arabia and controversial Thailand FA President Worawi Makudi.

Bahrain FA technical director and competitions committee head Hassan Ismail last week told the Gulf Daily News that "Shaikh Salman is gradually becoming the frontrunner for these elections".

He added: "He has been very busy meeting with the members of the different football federations across Asia, and each time he does so his campaign gets stronger as he continues to win over support from many countries."

Salman is running a campaign with similar aims under the slogan "Asia United", putting restoring the integrity of Asian football at the top of his priority list.

China's Zhang Jilong has held the role on an interim basis from June 2011, but he decided not to run for permanent election to the role.

The new AFC President is due be elected on May 2 in Kuala Lumpur at the AFC Extraordinary Congress.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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