KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —– Worawi Makudi was arguably the biggest loser in the battle for the leadership of the Asian Football Confederation in Kuala Lumpur.
The 61-year-old head of the Thailand Football Association has been an AFC delegate on the executive committee of world football federation FIFA since 1997; only Julio Grondona (Argetnina), Issa Hayatou (Cameroon) and Michel d’Hooghe (Belgium) have sat at the top table longer.
He has held that post, without significant opposition, despite a string of scandals which he has either shrugged off or managed to deflect.
However, his support within the AFC was demonstrated, by the result of the presidential election, to be withering away. The life ban imposed by FIFA this week on close confidante Manilal Fernando – also, until then, a FIFA exco member – has left him politically exposed [Fernando has indicated an intention to appeal to CAS].
Makudi was the one of the first of the original four presidential contenders to declare himself. His candidacy was a surprise but, sources close to the Thai FA, have suggested that he saw an opportunity because acting president Zhang Jilong had been persuaded not to stand.
On February 25 was promised unanimous support by the 11 members of the ASEAN Football Federation (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Vietnam) plus co-opted Australia.
A specially-convened AFF meeting had heard an unequivocal statement of support from president Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah, who was head of the AFC before controversial and now-banned Mohamed Bin Hammam.
Yet in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday the ASEAN unanimity had fractured and Makudi collected only seven votes compared with the 33 for runaway presidential winner Sheikh Salman.
The disappointed and embarrassed Makudi said: “I never expected it would turn out like this. I got promises of support from our [ASEAN] group. But, there have been internal changes in many of those countries, and we saw the result of that today.
“It’s a lesson that we cannot read people’s minds. I’ll analyse all the factors to see why it happened and get back to work again. I’ll take it as a learning experience. I don’t know whether I will run for this post again.”
Makudi has had a controversial tenure in charge of Thai football.
Most notably he flew to Port of Spain with disgraced former AFC president Mohamed Bin Hammam and Manilal Fernando to attend a FIFA presidential conference attended by members of the Caribbean Football Union then run by Jack Warner.
Within days Qatari Bin Hammam was hit with bribery allegations (which he has always denied) over the offering of $40,000 in cash to each of the CFU delegations for expenses. Makudi has always insisted he knew nothing about the cash.
Later in 2011, he was cleared by FIFA over accusations concerning the use of development grants and has had to rebuff criticisms of his running of the domestic game from a Thai parliamentary committee.
Makudi failed in early February in a London libel action against Lord David Triesman, former chairman of both the Football Association and England’s doomed bid to win host rights to the 2018 World Cup.
Triesman had told a parliamentary committee that Makudi had asked for TV rights for himself for a vote-encouraging friendly match between Thailand and England.
Makudi’s action was struck down by Mr Justice Tugendhat because the comments had been made under parliamentary privilege.