MANAMA (Reuters) – Political kingmaker Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah of Kuwait extended his influence further into soccer on Thursday when he was elected unopposed as one of Asia’s three ordinary representatives on FIFA’s executive committee.
Sheikh Ahmad was the only candidate for a two-year term up for grabs on FIFA’s top table due to tactical manoeuvring by confederation chiefs.
The tactics were orchestrated by Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, who himself was re-elected as Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president unopposed for a four year term.
He will continue on the FIFA executive committee along with newcomers Sheikh Ahmad, who was elevated to world soccer’s governing body along with Prince Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah of Malaysia and Kohzo Tashima of Japan who will serve for four years.
That means Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, who has served on the FIFA executive for the last four years, loses his seat as does the long-serving Worawi Makudi of Thailand.
Prince Ali’s position, as Asian vice-president, was taken by Shaikh Salman in his role as president, and the Jordanian royal did not contest any of the other Asian seats available.
Tashima polled 36 votes and Shah 25 meaning that Makudi, who has been on the FIFA exco since 1997, the year before Sepp Blatter became FIFA president and long been the subject of corruption allegations, was not re-elected.
He polled only 13 votes as did Chung Mong-gyu of South Korea, who complained about the electoral procedure but was given short shrift by Salman for his protests.
It is Ahmad’s elevation though that is the most significant and extends Asia’s increasing influence in sporting political bodies.
He is seen as the driving force behind Thomas Bach’s successful bid to become the president of the International Olympic Committee in 2013, lobbying for the German behind the scenes and even publicly stating his support in an interview with German television.
Many observers close to FIFA believe his election seals the first step towards an eventual tilt at the FIFApresidency itself in 2019.
Sheikh Ahmad deliberately sought a two-year term rather than four and the AFC hierarchy agreed to change their complicated voting protocols just before voting took place to accede to his wishes.
Not everyone was happy with that with Chung protesting to Salman who dismissed his objections, but by changing the election statutes, the AFC paved the way for Sheikh Ahmad to stand again for a four year term in 2017 and be in place to make an expected push for the FIFA presidency in 2019.
In a statement issued by the Kuwaiti FA, Sheik Ahmad said: “It is a real honour to have been elected by AFCfamily as an Asian representative on the FIFA Executive Committee.
“The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the first in Asia, will inspire millions of young people throughout Asia and the Middle-East to engage in sport.
“Over the next seven years we must all work together in a cooperative and transparent way to ensure that we deliver the very best competition for players and for fans of football.”
The 51-year-old is currently the head of the Association of National Committees (ANOC), the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) and the Solidarity Commission of the International Olympic Committee.
He is also the founder and president of the Pan-Arab Rowing Federation, among other pan-Arab sporting bodies and also is the honorary president of the Kuwait FA.