PANAJI, India (Reuters) - Asia’s top soccer officials delivered a major snub to FIFA on Tuesday, forcing the postponement of an election for three spots on the world body’s new governing Council in a row over the disqualification of a Qatari candidate.
With FIFA President Gianni Infantino watching on, delegates to an Asian Football Confederation extraordinary congress, which had been called to conduct the election, voted down the agenda.
Forty two of the 44 members who had voting rights at Tuesday’s meeting raised a “No” card when AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa called for the agenda of the meeting to be passed.
“This has been an eventful morning - and an eventful few weeks,” Shaikh Salman told the gathering. “But the Congress has spoken with one voice and that has been clear for us all to see.
“FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, I am not sure if you have been at a shorter Congress but I think you can see the strength of opinion in the room.”
World governing body FIFA banned Qatari Saoud Al-Mohannadi from the election on Sunday because of an ongoing ethics investigation, leaving insufficient time for new candidates to join the six remaining in the field.
Singapore, who had their FA chief Zainudin Nordin as one of the candidates for the FIFA Council elections, voted in favor of the agenda while another member abstained.
The AFC will set a new date for an extraordinary congress in consultation with FIFA, AFC secretary general Windsor John said.
“There were a lot of people who hoped to file their own nominations,” Praful Patel, AFC vice president and president of the All India Football Federation, told reporters.
“Whether somebody was barred or banned, I wish this process had been done earlier. The others could have also had the opportunity to stand and that’s why it got canceled.”
FIFA had set a Sept. 30 deadline for elections to the Council, which replaces the Executive Committee under reforms instituted in the wake of the corruption scandal which has engulfed soccer’s world governing body over the last 16 months.
“I think it’s democracy and we need to look forwards anyway,” Infantino told Reuters. “There’s still a lot of work ahead.”
Al-Mohannadi, a vice-president of the Qatar Football Association who denies any wrongdoing, was one of the favorites to win a seat on the new body and had cleared the necessary FIFA integrity check.
A FIFA ethics investigator last month recommended Al-Mohannadi be banned from the game for at least two-and-a-half years for refusing to cooperate with an inquiry.
Asia’s three additional seats on the Council include one reserved for a woman.
Australian Moya Dodd, formerly a co-opted member of the old FIFA Executive Committee, was slated to take on Mahfuza Ahkter of Bangladesh and Han Un-Gyong of North Korea.
“As a candidate I was ready, I am ready whether it’s today, tomorrow, next week or next year,” Dodd, the chairwoman of the FIFA task force for women’s football, told Reuters.
“It’s a little disappointing I guess. It’s like arriving to play your grand final and then the game gets rescheduled to another day.
“But we need to do it when the membership is comfortable to proceed and that wasn’t today.”
Zhang Jian of China, Iran’s Ali Kafashian Naeni and Nordin of Singapore were to vie for the other two seats but it looks likely that other candidates will join the race after the postponement.
Editing by Nick Mulvenney