Appointment of Sheikh Ahmad to FIFA exco, cements powerbase of man tipped to replace FIFA president.

Sheikh Ahmad in . . . Worawi Makudi out. Hence a changing of the guard is under way around the top tables of Asian and world football.

The election congress of the Asian Football Confederation went as smoothly as its president, Bahrain’s Sheikh Saman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, would have hoped – including his own unopposed re-election.

Most notable step forward was the removal of Thailand’s Makudi as a Asian delegate on the executive committee of world football federation FIFA. He had held the role ever since 1997, which is a year longer than Sepp Blatter has been president.

Makudi had survived several controversies over the use of development funds as well as accusations over his conduct during the scandal-hit 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding campaign.

Now he has joined the ever-lengthening list of exco voters out in the cold – ousted by Prince Abdullah of Malaysia, son of a former president of the AFC. Also new to the FIFA exco will be Japan’s Kohzo Tashima.

If Makudi’s exit was an event of note, no surprise attended the unopposed election on to the FIFA exco of influential IOC powerbroker Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah of Kuwait. He is also president of the Association of National Olympic Committees, of the Olympic Council of Asia and of the IOC Olympic Solidarity commission.

Sheikh Ahmad was elected to the FIFA exco for an initial two-year term aid speculation that he has an eye on a run for world football’s top job in 2019.

FIFA’s current president Blatter addressed AFC Congress in his formal role while his challegers – Prince Ali of Jordan, Dutchman Michael Van Praag and Portugal’s Luis Figo – were relegated to silent frustration in the audience.

Like every other FIFA region, with the exception of Blatter-averse UEFA, they had been denied the opportunity to address AFC congress.

Blatter hailed the work of Sheikh Salman in refloating the AFC after its scandal-hit years under the now-banned Qatari, Mohamed Bin Hammam.

He said: “The Asian confederation had been in waters not so very clear and not so clean and now you [Sheikh Salman] have brought back this boat so it is only justice for this congress to re-elect you as leader.”

Sheikh Salman told delegates of his satisfaction at progress since his initial election in 2013. However further hard work and expansion was necessary, both on and off the pitch.

He said: “My mission has been to engender unity among member associations. I believe that in the last two years we have achieved a unity not seen before in Asian football. We are closer than at any other time in our history.

“We have achieved a lot in a short space of time but there is much more to do . . . it is not easy to take over a confederation in the midst of turbulence and to stablise it.”

Sheikh Salman praised the organisers of the World Cup in Brazil last year but fretted that not one of Asia’s four national teams progressed beyond the first round, undermining claims from within the AFC for more slots at the World Cup finals.

Hence Sheikh Salman made a specific point of welcoming the appointment of ex-Scotland manager Andy Roxburgh as AFC technical director “with the ambition of improving the quality of coaching across the region to develop quality players.

“The vision is for an Asia from which our top teams and players regularly compete at the top level.”

Sheikh Salman also stressed the importance of the AFC remaining united in support of troubled member associations, such as Palestine.

He said: “It is important, in raising standards, also to resist political interference in member associations and stand up for our members, like Palestine, who need our support in the global arena.”

Palestine’s football federation wants FIFA to suspend Israel from membership of the world federation in the ongoing dispute over the freedom of movement of athletes, officials and sports goods.