KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS —- Asia’s football federations have effectively passed a vote of no confidence in FIFA and its ethics committee after forcing the scrapping of the AFC’s election congress in Goa, India.
Anger at an order from Zurich barring Qatari Saoud Al-Mohannadi from standing for a place on the newly-expanded council of the world football federation led to a 42-1 vote with one abstention against the congress agenda; only Singapore voted in favour.
He said: “This has been an eventful morning – and an eventful few weeks – but congress has spoken with one voice and that has been clear for us all to see.”
Addressing FIFA president Gianni Infantino, a congress guest, Sheikh Salman added: “I am not sure if you have been at a shorter congress but I think you can see the strength of opinion in the room.”
After a subsequent emergency executive committee meeting, Sheikh Salman said: “Today the AFC and Asian football has shown solidarity and unity. The message has been clear to everyone both inside and outside Asia.
“Football in Asia is united and that is down to you – the members – and I thank you for sending out such a strong message that we stand united.”
The immediate prospect is that Asian football will be unable to send two new representatives as well as a female delegate to the FIFA Council meeting in Zurich in the middle of next month. Sheikh Salman is already a member of the council as a FIFA vice-president through his status at the head of the AFC.
An extraordinary election congress had been due originally to choose two out of four ‘ordinary’ candidates from among Qatar FA vice-president Al Mohannadi, Chinese federation general secretary Zhang Jian, Iran’s former IFF president and AFC vice-president Ali Kafashian Naeni plus Singapore FA president Zainudin Nordin.
The women’s place election was between Australia’s Moya Dodd, a co-opted member of the old FIFA executive committee, Mahfuza Ahkter (Bangladesh) and Han Un Gyong (North Korea).
The curtailment of congress meant that member FAs were unable to confirm the appointment of South Korea’s Chung Mong Gyu as vice-president in place of China’s Zhang Jilong. Hence Zhang has been co-opted to remain on the executive committee pending a new congress.
Al Mohannadi has known of the FIFA ethics investigation into his conduct for some time, raising questions over why and his Qatar association even decided to progress his candidacy. However they had been encouraged by the ethics committee’s stance that he maintained a presumption of innocence pending the eventual verdict.
On August 26 the FIFA ethics committee published the conclusions of an inquiry conducted by deputy chair Djimbaraye Bourngar into the conduct of the former general secretary of the QFA.
Bourngar recommended that ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert ban Al-Mohannadi for “no less than two years and six months and a fine of no less than SFr20,000” for a “failure to properly cooperate and provide truthful information to the investigatory chamber in the framework of another investigation not related to the awarding of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.”
The issue is thought to stretch back to events surrounding a previous ethics inquiry into another Qatari, the former AFC president Mohamed bin Hammam, who was subsequently the subject of a life ban.
At the weekend a curt statement from AFC announced the decision that Al-Mohannadi was not eligible in the election to stand “based on the report of the investigatory chamber of the FIFA ethics committee.”
It is thought the AFC leaders had understood it was likely Al-Mohannadi, despite his protestations of innocence, would be banned from the game.
The position of individuals is compromised because Wolfgang Niersbach, a German member of the FIFA Council, continues to undertake his duties while appealing against an ethics suspension of his own.
However long-standing critics of Qatar’s influence in the game, arising largely out its surprise success in winning host rights to the 2022 World Cup, may be prompted to return to the attack.