FIFPro urges FIFA to focus on human rights record

Sheik Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa considers entering the presidential race by Monday's deadline. (Vincent Thian/AP)

HOOFDDORP, Netherlands — The international football players’ union FIFPro has urged FIFA to block presidential contenders with a poor record on human rights.

FIFPro’s call on Friday comes as the Asian Football Confederation’s president, Sheik Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, considers entering the presidential race by Monday’s deadline.

As president of the Bahrain football federation in 2011, Sheikh Salman allegedly failed to protect national team players who were arrested during pro-democracy protests. Some players claim they were tortured.

"A new FIFA president would also need to show a body of work based on social wellbeing, fairness, democratic values and human rights," FIFPro said in a statement.

Those who cannot "should be eliminated from the process without further delay," said the union, which represents 65,000 players worldwide.

Presidential hopefuls must pass integrity checks overseen by FIFA’s election committee before being accepted as candidates in the Feb. 26 poll.

FIFPro did not name Sheikh Salman in its statement, but the Bahraini royal was singled out in a critical statement by the Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation.

"(I)t is inconceivable that someone who is facing such grave allegations of human rights violations could step into the void at the top of FIFA resulting from Swiss and U.S. corruption investigations," Sharan Burrow, the ITUC general secretary, said in a statement.

"It’s difficult to know how low FIFA politics can actually go," Burrow added.

FIFA declined to investigate the allegations against Sheikh Salman in 2011, and in 2014 then-FIFA ethics prosecutor Michael Garcia also did not take up a case, the ITUC said.

Sheikh Salman, who was elected as AFC leader two years after the protests in Bahrain, has previously said the issue was for politicians to handle, not football officials.

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