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Sheikh Salman reaffirms AFC support for Blatter's bid to stay in charge of FIFA

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MANILA, Philippines — The Asian Football Confederation president has warned against any potential challenge to Sepp Blatter and pledged support for the controversial FIFA president.

Blatter is seeking a fifth term in charge of football's world governing body. Former FIFA official Jerome Champagne has said he plans to stand against Blatter — and has until late January to show he has the support of five national associations — while Harold Mayne-Nicholls, the former head of the Chilean federation, is also considering standing.

AFC boss Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa told The Associated Press that any challenger has to consider what is best for the continent as a whole.

Speaking ahead of the AFC annual awards ceremony on Saturday, Salman said: "If someone wants to run, they have to look at the interests of the whole continent...But it is a free choice, if they want to run, we can't stop them."

The Bahraini official said there had been no change to the AFC's decision at a congress in June to back the re-election of Blatter.

"It was a unanimous decision," Salman said. "After making the decision, we have to support it. We never go back on our words and commitments, that how we are."

Blatter is also in Manila to celebrate the AFC's 60th anniversary,

Salman, elected to Asia's top job in May 2013 with an overwhelming majority, is also up for re-election as AFC president in May with no current challenger.

"It's a democratic process, if someone wants to run, they can," Salman said. "Most people are happy, and think I have done a good job. I have tried to bring the different zones in Asia together in the spirit of unity. There's still six months to go so we'll see."

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