World football governing body FIFA was rocked on Wednesday when Swiss detectives launched a dawn raid at the five-star Baur au Lac hotel, arresting a number of senior football officials in relation to bribery and corruption allegations.
The arrests, conducted in cooperation with an ongoing investigation by the United States Department of Justice related to accusations of wide-scale fraud related to CONCACAF and CONMEBOL-hosted tournaments, sent shock waves around the world and came just days before the 65th FIFA Congress are due to vote for the FIFA President.
While there were calls for the election to be postponed, including from European football chiefs UEFA, FIFA spokesman Walter de Gregorio confirmed at a hastily arranged press conference in Zurich that both the Congress and election would go ahead as scheduled.
Meanwhile, Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan, the only man remaining in the battle to unseat incumbent President Sepp Blatter, initially refused to make a comment on the arrests before releasing a short statement later in the day through his Twitter account.
“We cannot continue with the crisis in FIFA, a crisis that has been ongoing and is not just relevant to the events of today.
FIFA needs leadership that governs, guides and protects our national associations. Leadership that accepts responsibility for its actions and does not pass blame.
Leadership that restores confidence in the hundreds of millions of football fans around the world.”
The Asian Football Confederation, who have continually reiterated their support for Blatter despite one of their own being a challenger, initially refused to make a comment when contacted by Football Channel Asia on Wednesday afternoon (Malaysian time).
However, they too released a short statement later on Wednesday night reaffirming their support for the embattled Blatter.
“The Asian Football Confederation expresses its disappointment and sadness at Wednesday’s events in Zurich whilst opposing any delay in the FIFA Presidential elections to take place on Friday May 29 in Zurich.
The AFC is against any form of corruption in football and fully supports any actions taken by the independent FIFA Ethics Committee where wrongdoing may have occurred, whether such actions affect Asian officials or otherwise. The AFC is still undergoing its own process of reform and has taken many concrete steps in the last two years to improve governance in the Confederation, whilst recognising that there is still much work to do.
Furthermore, the AFC reiterates its decision taken at the AFC Congress in Sao Paulo in 2014, endorsed at subsequent Congresses in Melbourne and Manama in 2015, to support FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter.”
Football Channel Asia also contacted incoming FIFA Executive Committee member HRH Prince Abdullah Al-Haj Ibni Sultan Hj Ahmad Shah , who in a short statement refused to make any comment.
“I am unable to comment at this present time as i’ve yet to be fully briefed on this matter,” he responded.