Arabs lament missed opportunity in FIFA presidency race

Sheikh Salman would have had a better chance if his efforts were united with Prince Ali.

Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, whose candidacy for FIFA president fell short, makes a speech (photo credit: REUTERS)
Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, whose candidacy for FIFA president fell short, makes a speech
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Arab region squandered the chance to help elect their first FIFA president because their two candidates failed to cooperate, leaving the door open for Swiss Gianni Infantino to triumph on Friday, Arab soccer chiefs and pundits said.
UEFA's Infantino got 88 votes in the first round, three more than Asian Football Confederation (AFC) chief Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, while Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan managed 27 and Frenchman Jerome Champagne won seven.
Sheikh Salman would have had a better chance if his efforts were united with Prince Ali as Infantino won in the second round with 115 of the 207 votes, which was more than the required majority of 104, while Sheikh Salman got 88 and Prince Ali four.
"Some countries gave promises but didn't fulfil them. We are all Arabs but unfortunately some support the other party (candidate) and we hope this changes in the future," Bahrain FA president Ali Al Khalifa said in a television interview. "We as Arabs should unite our efforts and be clear with each other."
"It appears from the first round that some countries have joined the other party (candidate). We have now to look forward and help FIFA's new president get (the world governing body) out of the current crisis", he added.
FIFA was voting for a new leader amidst its biggest ever corruption scandal which has seen 41 people and entities indicted by the US Department of Justice.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) pledged its backing to Sheikh Salman while his AFC said it supported him but it seems some of those countries did not give him their vote.
"Africa has fulfilled its promises but it is clear that something happened with Asian countries and this was behind the final result," Sudan FA president Mutasim Jaffar said.
"Sheikh Salman was depending heavily on Africa and Asia and the plan was to get 100 votes in the first round. He has to find out what happened to his home (vote)."
This was the second chance for the Arab region to get a FIFA president after Prince Ali lost to former FIFA chief Sepp Blatter by 133-73 votes in the election last May when Sheikh Salman announced his support for the Swiss incumbent.
Blatter, who was head of world soccer's governing body from 1998, stood down four days after winning his final term of office last May and has since been banned from all football activities for six years for ethics violations.
"Arabs split as usual so a historic chance has been wasted and I think it will not come again," Arab journalist Mustafa Agha tweeted. "Infantino won because the Arabs split. If there was cooperation we could have had an Arab president."
Whilst cooperation between Sheikh Salman and Prince Ali could have helped the Arab cause in the election, they would have had to put aside past differences to achieve it.
When Sheikh Salman became AFC president in 2013, he made changes which in effect meant Prince Ali lost his seat as one of Asia's representatives on the FIFA executive committee.
This lack of support continued when Sheikh Salman said the AFC would support Blatter against any other candidate in previous elections, including the vote last May.
Despite the failure of the region's candidates to triumph in Friday's vote their efforts were appreciated in the region.
"Thank you Sheikh Salman, you were a big competitor... and thank you Prince Ali for your courage. You both have opened the door for all to compete with the west," Qatari sports magazine Estad Al-Doha's editor in chief Mahed Al-Khelaifi tweeted.
Queen Rania of Jordan also offered her support to Prince Ali, tweeting: "It's not winning that makes a leader, but how committed he is to the game. @AliBinAlHussein you will always be a leading light on the field."