FIFA World Cup

Asia flexes muscle in battle with Fifa

Fifa president Gianni Infantino was left to watch the proceedings awkwardly as the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) member associations voted overwhelmingly to postpone the AFC Extraordinary Congress in Goa on Tuesday. Infantino was attending the AFC Congress for the first time after being elected as president of football’s world governing body but had to endure a tough 25 minutes after Asia, like AFC president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa emphasised, sent out a message “loud and clear to everyone both inside and outside Asia.”

 The message, like the vote, was overwhelmingly directed towards Fifa whose ethics committee banned Qatari Saoud Al-Mohannadi from contesting on the eve of elections where three Asian members, including a female member, were to be elected to the expanded Fifa Council. The Qatar FA vice-president with considerable clout in Asia was cleared by the Fifa Review Committee last month but Fifa advised AFC that, based on the report of the Investigatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee, Saoud is not eligible to contest.

“A lot of people have not filed their own nominations in the hope that there will be someone else contesting. I don’t think it’s right to go about things in such a manner; whether someone is banned or cleared it’s for the committee to decide but I wish this process was done much earlier. That would have given the opportunity to others to contest,” AFC vice-president Praful Patel told TOI after the Congress concluded.

 Talks of unease within the AFC were there for all to hear but when the Extraordinary Congress was convened, it was all quiet. Infantino exchanged pleasantries and pennants with AFC president Shaikh Salman, sports ministerVijay Goel welcomed the delegates but when approval was sought for the Congress agenda, members voted 42-1 in favour of not continuing with an agenda which included the election of three additional members to the Fifa Council.

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