It seems inevitable now that Sepp Blatter’s reign as FIFA President will soon come to an end.
Whether that be today at the 65th FIFA Congress remains to be seen, although it appears unlikely even though his challenger, Prince Ali bin Al Hussein is fast gaining momentum after receiving public support from UEFA, US Soccer Federation and Football Federation Australia within the last 24 hours.
But with US Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch declaring that Wednesday’s indictments are only the beginning of their investigation, not the end, the dominos are falling one by one. Blatter’s time will come.
And when it does, history will not look kindly upon those who resisted the overwhelming desire for change amongst the world’s football community and voted to retain the status quo of bribery, corruption and kickbacks.
Which brings us to the Asian Football Confederation and their unwavering support of Blatter.
It’s well known that AFC President Salman Bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa, a member of the Bahraini royal family, is a close ally of Blatter, as too is power broker Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah of Kuwait, the all-powerful head of the Olympic Council of Asia and the Association of National Olympic Committees. Many suspect that Sheikh Ahmad has a strong chance to replace Blatter as FIFA President in 2019, assuming Blatter lasts that long and does finally stand down.
The wheels for that were set in motion at the AFC Congress in Bahrain last month, when Sheikh Ahmad was one of three AFC representatives voted onto the FIFA Executive Committee.
The Kuwaiti has quickly become a kingmaker in world sport, playing a leading role in the election of German Thomas Bach as the President of the International Olympic Committee in 2013 and doing likewise that year with close friend Sheikh Salman when he was elected AFC President.
Sheikh Salman and Prince Ali, who was elected by the AFC Congress in 2011 as a FIFA Vice-President, waged a public battle for the that position leading up to the AFC Congress in 2014, with Sheikh Salman pushing for the role to automatically fall to the President of the AFC, a move that would further cement his own power base, while Prince Ali argued it should be separate and voted on by the 47 member associations of the AFC.
The Bahraini won the vote, boosting his own position within the region and weakening that of Prince Ali, the man he will replace on the FIFA Executive Committee.
Therefore it is no surprise that the AFC has thrown its support behind Blatter, but it does highlight the desperate need for reform right across the football world, not just at FIFA.
When Sheikh Salman was first elected AFC President in 2013 he did so on the back of a manifesto of reform, promising to fully investigate the controversial PriceWaterhouse Coopers audit. That hasn’t happened. The report has been buried and Sheikh Salman hasn’t followed through on other promises to clean up the sport in the region.
Just recently the AFC suspended General Secretary Dato’ Alex Soosay, after reports emerged that he asked AFC Finance Director Bryan Kuan Wee Hoong to tamper with or destroy documents during the PwC audit that could incriminate him in the dealings of former AFC President Mohammed Bin Hammam.
Former FIFA and AFC ExCo member Worawi Makudi of Thailand has long been linked to the seedy dealings of the football underworld and was a close ally of disgraced former President Bin Hammam.
And just recently the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld a lifetime ban issued by the FIFA Appeal Committee against Sri Lanka’s Vernon Manilal Fernando for several breaches of the FIFA Code of Ethics relating to the bribery and corruption.
Reform is coming in world football, the pressure is now too great and it’s just a matter of time before the house of cards comes falling down. When it does, the AFC will stand shamed that it supported a regime that not only allowed bribery, corruption and kickbacks to exist, but encouraged them to flourish.