THE much-anticipated Extraordinary Congress of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in Goa, India, on Tuesday turned out to be a damp squib. The meeting agenda was overwhelmingly voted down by delegates, forcing the postponement of elections of three additional members to FIFA Council and thereby, at least outwardly, signalling a rift between the world body and continental confederation.
Though AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa made it clear there was “no argument between us and FIFA”, his further comments that “we need to be fair and just as well” say it all.
Ever since Gianni Infantino pulled off a shock win over Shaikh Salman in the FIFA presidential election in February this year, there has been an uneasy calm between the two camps though the AFC has openly supported all reform measures initiated by FIFA.
Nevertheless, one would be living in a fool’s paradise by refusing to accept that the AFC chief and some of his big-time supporters are still being haunted by the fearful memories of threats of arrest and ban, using the ethics rules, during the days preceding the election in Zurich in February.
Though both sides have moved on, I’m sure there’s a certain level of distrust among the two. With Infantino allegedly trying to interfere in elections, there might’ve been a sense of déjà vu in the Shaikh Salman camp, which prompted them to take preemptive measures. After all, it’s like once bitten, twice shy!
The AFC chief’s remark “we need to be fair and just as well” seems to be justified. The last-minute blocking of Saud Abdulaziz Al Mohannadi’s candidacy had left many red-faced. It was with less than 48 hours to go for the election that FIFA informed AFC the Qatari official was ineligible and this had no doubt infuriated many others who didn’t enter the ring as they supported him.
I think the AFC members were quite right in feeling that FIFA took them for a ride. One of its vice-presidents Praful Patel, who also heads the Indian federation, was bang on target when he said whether somebody was barred or banned, that should’ve been done earlier, so others could’ve had the opportunity to stand. This is quite fair, isn’t it?
Remember, fair play is a fundamental part of football.