KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Moya Dodd is officially on the campaign trail and the reputation and status of the Asian Football Confederation within the world game may rest heavily on whether she wins its internal vote for a formal place on the new FIFA Council.
Dodd, former Australian international, is being challenged by Mahfuza Ahkter from Bangladesh and Han Un Gyong of North Korea in the election being staged by the AFC in Goa on September 27.
The extraordinary congress is being staged at a time when a clear, progressive voice is needed from the AFC after two setbacks in recent months.
A first was the clear defeat of AFC president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa in the FIFA leadership election in February; a second was a recommendation from FIFA ethics investigators this past week that one of its male candidates for the council should be barred from football for more than two years.
The Qatar FA’s vice-president, Saoud Al-Mohannadi, has been processed for ‘a lack of co-operation’. Being considered innocent until proven guilty, he remains one of four candidates for two extra AFC seats in the expanded FIFA Council but the image complication is one the confederation could do without.
Hence the importance of the clarity of Dodd’s candidacy after three high-profile years as a co-opted member of the former FIFA executive committee.
In that time she has earned a far higher profile than any other senior woman administrator in the game, having seized the opportunity to press the need for greater diversity at all levels of the game through her leadership of the FIFA’s women’s football taskforce.
Dodd, in launching formally a campaign which has been unofficial for some time, said: “In recent times, FIFA has been challenged like never before. Asia must to send its strongest team to FIFA to restore the faith of our stakeholders, and ensure that Asia’s interests are represented as big decisions are made.
“With years of experience on the executive committees of both FIFA and AFC, plus their various standing committees, I believe I can offer the skills, experience and credibility necessary to represent Asia in FIFA.”
She has promised to support the ongoing implementation of reform, promote ever-greater inclusion and diversity and “work to restore FIFA’s reputation and underpin commercial growth.”
The diplomatic path Dodd treads is a delicate one.
The concept of a forthright woman in a senior role is at odds with some Asian cultures. Also, Australia’s presence within the AFC is still not an entirely happy one. The bitterness still evinced by Australian football supremo Frank Lowy over the country’s first-round beating in the 2022 World Cup election – won by Qatar – created a sense of suspicion in the Gulf which continues to linger.
Dodd can point to the transparency of a solid track record and an election platform. Her fellow candidates appear yet to have offered either.
A significant role may be played by Kuwaiti Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, multi-presidencied Olympic movement powerbroker who is an elected AFC member of the FIFA Council.
His own status within the game has come under scrutiny over the ongoing ‘war’ being waged against international sports bodies by sections of his own Kuwaiti governing family.
Securing alliances beyond the ‘traditional’ Asian sporting constituency might have a value all its own.