Defiant Thai football boss defends AFC bid

Thailand's controversial football chief Worawi Makudi said he had no fear that his bid to lead the Asian game would be hurt by past graft allegations -- none of which were proven.

Worawi, who will contest the May election for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) presidency, was cleared of allegations of corruption including claims by former English FA chairman Lord Triesman implicating him in a bribery scandal.

He said a series of inquiries had proved his innocence and left him free to prepare his campaign to lead the AFC, which is seeking a replacement for its scandal-hit former boss Mohamed bin Hammam.

"I've cleared my name so I'm not afraid," a defiant Worawi -- who is a powerful figure in Asian football -- told AFP. "But if people try to bring cases back, I'll respond very strongly, with legal action."

In September Worawi denied fraud allegations made by a South Korean firm in connection with the early cancellation of a multi-million-dollar deal for broadcast rights to Thai football.

Worawi, 61, was cleared in 2011 of accusations that funds meant for the Thai FA to build facilities were instead spent on building assets on land he owned in Bangkok.

He was also previously accused by Lord Triesman of involvement in a scandal concerning bribes for officials from world governing body FIFA in return for backing England's World Cup bid.

The 46-member AFC will elect a new leader on May 2, trying to draw a line under two years of allegations of wrongdoing including bribery by bin Hammam. The Qatari denies the claim.

FIFA executive committee member Worawi faces three rivals: Hafez Ibrahim al-Medlej of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa of Bahrain and Yousuf al-Serkal of the United Arab Emirates.

But he is a strong candidate after securing the unanimous support of Southeast Asia's football bodies.

"I have a lot of respect for every candidate... I can't underestimate anybody in this race," he said, restating his desire to unite member nations over "Asia's football development and not non-football related issues".

The AFC's current caretaker chief Zhang Jilong of China last week disappointed many observers by revealing he would not contest the election, having earned plaudits for pushing for a new era of "transparency" during his tenure.

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