KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING: Odd as it may appear to outsiders, FIFA does not believe it is essential that the nations entrusted with hosting the World Cup should automatically have a seat – even co-opted – on its all-powerful executive committee.
So Hassan Al-Thawadi from Qatar, 2022 host nation, is seeking to put that right by a more circuitous route, via election from the Asian Football Confederation in Kuala Lumpur on May 2.
His opponent is Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman, a long-time campaigner who is also contesting the presidency. But Al-Thawadi knows something about campaigning himself, after fronting up the operation which brought the World Cup to Qatar, to general surprise, in the first place.
In the Qatari capital of Doha, Al-Thawadi outlined his manifesto. He was supported by QFA president Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Bin Ahmad Al Thani who explained: “This is a charismatic young man, fluent in four languages and has a distinguished career in business and commercial fields as a talented lawyer.
“Al Thawadi has demonstrated his immense capabilities to contribute to the world of football as ceo of our bid and now as secretary-general of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee. I strongly believe Al Thawadi is the ideal candidate to represent Asia on FIFA’s Executive Committee.”
Al Thawadi’s four campaign pillars are:
1, Enhanced representation for the AFC within FIFA to help Asia fulfil its potential and support football’s global growth;
2, Focusing on educational initiatives throughout football – to provide players in the region with a future in the game beyond their playing careers, to create links between educational institutions and the FAs and to provide increased access to courses for administrators and officials;
3, Make the most of existing development projects to ensure they are tailored to the specific needs and requirements of each member association; and
4, To work towards creating the best environment for commercial and administrative success.
Al-Thawadi described his campaign stragegy as “speaking to as many football associations as possible – regardless of size or perceived influence – and to listen to and understand the issues of most importance to them.
“The knowledge gained from these meetings has played an integral part in shaping the agenda that I have outlined today.”
As for his election prospects against “a dear friend and a very strong candidate,” Al-Thawadi has been “overwhelmingly” encouraged by feedback during his whistle-stop tour of the most vast constituency in world football.
He shares a will for “more effective governance and greater transparency” and added: “The strength of Asia lies in the diversity and dynamism of its nations.
“Working with the AFC president, the member associations, and colleagues on the FIFA executive committee, I will work to expand Asian representation at FIFA, create opportunities for education at all levels of the game, accelerate football development, and use football as an engine for economic growth across our continent.”
The candidate . . .
Trained as a lawyer, 34-year-old Al Thawadi has been widely recognized for his contributions in the fields of sports, business and the law. Sport Business named him as a “Top 20 Innovator in Sport”. Gulf Business called him one of the “Top 100 World’s Most Influential Arabs”, while Arabian Business included him on a list of the “Power 500 World’s Most Influential Arabs. Legal Business hailed him as one of their “Top 30 Lawyers Under 40”.
In addition to his work on the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, Al Thawadi serves as General Counsel of Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) and Qatar Holding (QH) – entities founded by the State of Qatar in 2005 to diversify the country’s economy – that have invested in Porsche, Volkswagen, Barclays Bank, the New York Stock Exchange and Harrods, among other global entities. Prior to joining QIA in 2006, he worked for Qatar Petroleum.
Al Thawadi holds board positions with Hassad Food Company (Qatar’s premier worldwide investor in the agriculture and livestock sector), Katara Hospitality (Qatar’s leading hospitality owner, manager and developer), and Qatar Rail (the organization responsible for the design, construction, commissioning, operation and maintenance of Qatar’s rail network).
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