(WFI) Asian football’s powerbroker Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah of Kuwait was elected to FIFA’s Executive Committee at the AFC Congress on Thursday – a role that enhances his status as one of the most influential figures on the global sporting stage.
With three seats available for Asia on the powerful committee – one for two years and two for four – five other candidates for the two-year seat all withdrew to leave the president of the Olympic Council of Asia to run unopposed at the Bahrain meeting.
Sheikh Ahmad has been credited with helping Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa get elected to the AFC presidency in 2013 – a position to which the Bahraini was returned unopposed for a four-year term on Thursday – and is seen as a supporter of FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
“It is a real honour to have been elected by AFC family as an Asian representative on the FIFA Executive Committee,” Sheikh Ahmad said.
“I would like to express my gratitude to my colleagues for supporting and voting for me and to stress my commitment to using this position for the benefit of football in Asia and all regions worldwide.
“Football has the power to bring the world together, uniting people of all nations, races, genders and beliefs. It is the job of my colleagues and I to harness this power and realise its full potential to break down social barriers and promote equality.
“In Asia the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar will provide a focal point to do just that. As the first FIFA World Cup hosted in the region it will inspire millions of young people throughout Asia and the Middle-East to engage in sport.”
With three seats on the powerful FIFA committee up for grabs, there was speculation that Sheikh Ahmad opted to contest the two-year seat rather than one of the two four year posts in order to win re-election in 2017. This would then give the Kuwaiti a four-year term and a prime position to challenge for the FIFA presidency in 2019 when it is expected that incumbent Sepp Blatter, assuming he wins the upcoming 2015 ballot, will step down.
“Joining the FIFA Executive Committee is the first step towards becoming FIFA president for Sheikh Ahmad,” Dr Hafez Almedlej, the Saudi
Arabian member of the AFC’s Executive Committee told World Football INSIDER.
“It depends on Blatter. If he steps down in 2019, then in Blatter’s eyes, Sheikh Ahmad could be the perfect replacement. If he carries on, Sheikh Amhad will support him and then prepare for
“In Asia, we know how powerful he is and he is growing in power all the time. His rival used to be Mohammed bin Hammam, but he is around no longer and he has no rival. He is a superpower in Asia.”
Almedlej believes that only Sheikh Ahmad can stop himself from becoming FIFA president by misusing the significant power he now has.
But if the Kuwaiti plays his cards wisely, the path to Zurich could be wide open.
He is close to Hayatou in Africa. As soon as he starts campaigning, he will have the support of Africa and Asia and that is over half the votes,” the Saudi said.
Other winners in the FIFA Exco vote were Malaysia’s Tengku Abdullah and Kohzo Tashima of Japan defeating Chung Mong-gyu of South Korea and Thailand’s Worawi Makudi.
“I will continue to serve for developing Asian football to a higher level,” Tashima told INSIDER.
“It is also important to strengthen governance and finance of AFC. Besides, I will promote to ensure anyone can play football in a safe environment, especially children and those who are suffering from conflicts and so forth. I am a firm believer of the power of football. We all know that football will bring us a lot. So this should be rightly conveyed to the people.”
Tengku Abdullah was similarly delighted. “It wasn’t easy but it was a relief to win,” he told INSIDER. “It is a big responsibility and now we have to look forward to further the cause of Asian football. Judge me in four years.”
There was drama in the congress as Korea’s Chung tried to make a public statement to protest the fact that the congress was not being allowed to debate an election rule change just before the election was due to be held but the move was refused by the AFC president. “We didn’t win but it was a good experience and we learnt a lot,” Chung told INSIDER. “And there is always next time.”
This time in Bahrain, nothing could stand in the way of Sheikh Ahmad.
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