The clock is counting down nominations for key posts in the AFC with all the usual names being thrown around along with ‘newcomers’ such as Saudi Arabia’s Hafez Al-Medlej and Qatar’s World Cup commander Hassan Al Thawadi.
This being the AFC, some uncertainty lingers over the process in Kuala Lumpur in May. For example, the AFC could find itself with a new president . . . who is excluded from the FIFA executive committee.
But then, the Asian Football Confederation was always going to be tested in its voyage over from beneath the long shadow of the Bin Hammam farrago.
On January 31 the executive committee, under interim president Zhang Jilong, decided to hold an ‘Extraordinary Congress’ on May 2 and an ‘Ordinary Congress’ the next day.
A statement said: “The main business of the AFC Extraordinary Congress on May 2 would be to: a) elect the AFC President; b) one female AFC Vice-President; c) two female members to the AFC Executive Committee, and; d) one position on the FIFA Executive Committee.”
The need to elect a president is clear: China’s Zhang Jilong, as senior vice-president, has been in acting charge ever since Qatari Bin Hammam was suspended by FIFA back in May 2011. Bin Hammam, at last, is now history and the AFC is legally free to replace him.
Zhang Jilong stands to benefit if, as seems likely, the Arab vote splits between Yousuf Al Serkal (UAE FA president and AFC v-p), Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa (Bahrain FA president) and a new contender in Saudi Arabia’s Hafez Al-Medlej, the AFC’s marketing chairman.
The shadow over Zhang Jilong is that he was finance committee chairman during Bin Hammam’s near-decade in power. Japan’s Kohzo Tashima might, just conceivably, emerge as a compromise choice.
Prince Ali of Jordan, the AFC’s FIFA vice-president, has no interest in running though he will come under pressure to support one specific Gulf candidate.
That would prove embarrassing politically since, apart from heading the Jordan FA, he is also president of the West Asian Football Federation (whose 13 members include the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia).
Prince Ali faces a no-win dilemma. Acolytes of FIFA bosses in Zurich fear his decision to stay out of the AFC wrangling presages a run for the FIFA presidency in 2015. WAFF sources dismiss such speculation as European paranoia.
One further note: if an Arab wins the AFC presidency then West Asia has the right to a further ‘ordinary’ member of the AFC exco. This possibility intrigues the Qataris.
The QFA president, Hamad Bin Khalifa Bin Ahmed Al-Thani, according to the Arab language media, has expressed an interest here on behalf of the 2022 World Cup host.
This may be only an outside possibility. But the obvious candidate would be Al Thawadi whose role as secretary-general of Qatar 2022 confers him, logically, with unique significance in the future of Asian football.
Next item for election is “one female AFC vice-president” for which there should be no need to look beyond Australia’s Moya Dodd.
Not only is she expected to stand for re-election for a further four-year term but she is also the AFC’s nomination for the position of women’s football representative on the FIFA exco. Not to maintain her would undermine the AFC’s own FIFA recommendation.
In any case, two other women’s slots within the AFC executive are also open to election so ambitious future rivals can start there.
Final ‘extraordinary’ election item is “one position on the FIFA executive committee” – and this is where confusion reigns.
Current Asian FIFA exco members are Worawi Makudi and Manilal Fernando. Zhang Jilong also sits on the FIFA exco by virtue of his acting president’s role.
However, his two-year interregnum has cut across the FIFA election cycle. Hence the new AFC president cannot take up an automatic spot (as decreed by statute) until 2015. Someone else, quite properly, could beat him to the 2013-15 FIFA exco seat . . . and the new head of the AFC could find himself sitting outside in the FIFA car park for two years.
Nominations deadline is March 3. Then, and only then, may a little of the smoke clear.
The current AFC executive committee
Zhang Jilong (China)
Prince Abdullah Ibni Sultan Ahmad Shah (Malaysia)
Yousuf Yaqoob Yousuf Al Serkal (UAE)
Moya Dodd (Australia)
Ganesh Thapa (Nepal)
Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein (FIFA vp: Jordan)
Worawi Makudi(FIFA exco member: Thailand)
Vernon Manilal Fernando (FIFA exco member: Sri Lanka)
Hafez Al Medlej (Saudi Arabia)
Richard Lai (Guam)
Zaw Zaw (Myanmar)
Mahfuza Akhter Kiron (Bangladesh)
Sheikh Ali Bin Khalifa (Bahrain)
Praful Patel (India)
Kohzo Tashima (Japan)
Ganbold Buyannemekh (Mongolia)
Ali Azim (Maldives)
Sayyid Khalid Hamed Al Busaidi (Oman)
Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat (Pakistan)
Winston Lee (Singapore)
Tran Quoc Tuan (Vietnam)
Susan Shalabi Molano (co-opted: Palestine)