KUWAIT CITY: A major sports powerbroker is about to launch himself directly into world football’s political whirlpool with confirmation that Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah is to stand for a place on the executive committee of international governing body FIFA writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Sheikh Ahmad has been nominated for the forthcoming Asian confederation elections by his ‘home’ Kuwait Football Association for one of three AFC delegate slots on the FIFA executive committee.
His power of patronage, as president of two of the most powerful bodies within the Olympic movement, effectively guarantees him the votes and will spark fevered speculation all the way to FIFA HQ in Zurich about whether Sheikh Ahmad had ultimate designs on becoming, in 2019, the first Asian leader of world football.
Sheikh Ahmad is president of both the Association of National Olympic Committees and also of the Olympic Council of Asia. He was a key supporter of Thomas Bach’s campaign to win the IOC presidency in 2013 and also the decisive influence behind the successful bid of Bahraini Sheikh Salman Ebrahim bin Al Khalifa to win command of the AFC.
Indeed, Sheikh Ahmad’s latest move will raise speculation not only about his FIFA ambitions but about an interest, closer to home, in replacing Sheikh Salman whose AFC reign has been notable in a lack of progress on the wide reformist front culminating in the AFC’s recent decision to scrap the role of female vice-president, currently held by Australian Moya Dodd.
Assuming he is elected, Sheikh Ahmad’s dual role on the IOC and FIFA exco would become highly significant.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter is expected to win his own election in May but his own presence as football’s most powerful voice on the IOC would end in spring of next year when he hits the mandatory Olympic movement retirement age of 80.
Sheikh Ahmad would then be potentially the most important ‘football voice’ on the IOC since the other dual members are Issa Hayatou (the African football president) and Lydia Nsekera (Burundi) who carry nothing like the same weight.
The deadline for nominations to the AFC election is Saturday [February 28].
Other declared candidates for one of the three ‘ordinary’ AFC seats on the FIFA exco include Chung Mong-gyu (president of the South Korean federation), FIFA veteran Worawi Makudi (head of the Football Association of Thailand), Tengku Abdullah (president of the Football Association of Malaysia), Saud Al Mohannadi (vice-president of the Qatar Football Association) and Kohzo Tashima (vice-president and executive general secretary of the Japan Football Association).
China’s Zhang Jilong, parachuted back into the FIFA exco by the AFC in 2013 after the worldwide suspension of Sri Lanka’s Vernon Manilal Fernando, is not expected to stand.
One man certainly not standing for re-election is FIFA’s current Asian vice-president Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan. A change in statutes means that AFC president Sheilk Salman will take over that status after the AFC congress which is to be held in Manama, Bahrain, on April 30.