THE Asian Football Confederation’s new slogan reads ‘One Asia, one goal’, replacing ‘Future is Asia’. If the oneness the delegates displayed on Tuesday at its Extraordinary Congress in Goa, India, is any indication, then the future looks promising.
The AFC members had the courage of conviction to overwhelmingly reject the agenda and decide to postpone the election of its additional representatives to the FIFA Council after the Zurich-based umbrella organisation debarred Qatari candidate Saud Abdulaziz Al Mohannadi at the eleventh hour.
The much-anticipated congress was over in less than 30 minutes without any business being done. Perhaps, the most disappointed man would have been none other than FIFA President Gianni Infantino himself as it seemed he had a personal agenda.
Ever since Infantino became the FIFA president in February, registering an upset victory over AFC chief Shaikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, the world body has been undertaking several steps to reform itself. It may be recalled the Swiss-Italian took over the reins from Sepp Blatter, who was ejected from office by FIFA’s Ethics Committee and subsequently banned from all football activity for six years, following several allegations of corruption.
Infantino too came under some criticism following the resignation of FIFA’s Audit and Compliance chief Domenico Scala, who protested against his high-handedness, especially in hiring and firing independent governance officials. But he survived the storm and got an all clear from the Ethics Committee.
There are many football insiders who say Infantino is power-hungry and that he has been targeting officials who either voted against him or could be a threat for him in future, all in the name of reforms. It is widely believed that his seemingly unseen hands are behind the elevation, or sidelining of some of his chosen men to various bodies, including the new FIFA Council. The blocking of Caribbean Football Union President Gordon Derrick as a candidate for CONCACAF presidency a few months ago, which would have guaranteed him a place in the council, is being referred as a case in point.
It was the same strategy Infantino wanted to try within the AFC as well, backing Iran’s Ali Kafashian Naeni and Singapore’s Zainudin Nordin, who both believed to have voted for him. It goes without saying that there was a clear bias against Qatar when Al Mohannadi was declared ineligible. His last-minute blocking denied others an opportunity to file nominations, leaving only three — Zhang Jian of China being the other — in the fray for two seats. Had the elections gone ahead as scheduled, at least one of Infantino’s men would certainly have been chosen to the FIFA Council.
Indeed, it would have been a slap in the face for Shaikh Salman. However, his camp sensed this early and managed to garner the support of the vast majority, winning a 42-1 verdict to postpone the election, thereby sending a strong message to Infantino — not to meddle in the AFC affairs.
It remains to be seen how Infantino will react to this snub. But one thing is certain. Behind the ‘beautiful game’, there are many ugly games being played. DSP
Moral victory for Al Mohannadi
THE Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) decision to postpone the election of its extra FIFA Council members could be seen as a moral victory for Qatar Football Association Vice-President Saud Abdulaziz Al Mohannadi, who was barred in the last minute from contesting for one of the three positions despite getting an all clear following an integrity check conducted by the world body’s ethics committee.
It was the last-minute debarring of Al Mohannadi, vice-president of the Qatar Football Association, that irked the majority of AFC members who overwhelmingly voted against going ahead with the elections on Tuesday.
FIFA advised the AFC to block Al Mohannadi from running only two days before the elections although the Adjudicatory Chamber had not taken a decision on the recommendation of Investigatory Chamber to ban him for two-and-a-half years.
An AFC statement said last Sunday, “FIFA has advised us, based on the report of its Investigatory Chamber, it has decided Saud A Aziz Al Mohannadi isn’t eligible to stand in the elections for the Council.”
Most delegates opined it was unfair to have banned Al Mohannadi, especially when the Investigatory Chamber, while recommending the ban, had clearly stated “until a formal decision is taken by the Adjudicatory Chamber, the accused is presumed innocent.”
It was the Adjudicatory Chamber’s failure to take a decision that led to this unprecedented situation of the congress being called off as the members overwhelmingly rejected its agenda.
However, even if he is acquitted by the Adjudicatory Chamber, Al Mohannadi’s chances of having another crack at a FIFA Council seat look unlikely. It is learnt the AFC is set to adopt the recommendation of its Governance Task Force to make it mandatory that all candidates to key positions, both within the confederation and FIFA, should be none other than presidents of national associations. DSP
Next Electoral Congress in March-April
WIith the AFC Congress deciding to postpone the election of its extra FIFA Council members, it is unlikely that the world governing body’s all-powerful forum will have its full quota of 36 members before March-April next year.
FIFA had set September 30 as deadline for all its confederations to elect their representatives to the extra seats they are entitled to after the world body, as part of its reforms, decided to replace its 24-man ExCom with an expanded council.
Doha Stadium Plus has learnt the AFC ExCom would decide on the dates of its next Electoral Congress only during its meeting in Abu Dhabi in the last week of November, before the awards ceremony on December 1.
With FIFA regulations stipulating a mandatory four-month window for its ethics committee to conduct integrity checks on candidates running for any post, AFC’s next Electoral Congress can only be held sometime in March-April next year. DSP