One of Qatar’s leading sports officials has pulled out of the race for a spot on FIFA’s powerful executive committee (ExCo), days before elections are due to be held at a convention in Bahrain.
Qatar Football Association (QFA) vice-president Saud Al Mohannadi said in a statement this week that he was withdrawing in the hope that his colleagues in the region would rally behind a single candidate from West Asia.
“I am grateful to the football fraternity for their wholehearted support,” Al Mohannadi said in a statement. “I hope Asian football remains united and prospers as a powerful football body,” he added.
Separately, Al Mohannadi is expected to be acclaimed as vice-president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) at Thursday’s congress after running unopposed.
When Al Mohannadi announced his ExCo candidacy earlier this year, some observers suggested he put his hat in the ring to give Qatar more of a voice at FIFA, amid widespread criticism of the country, which is hosting the 2022 World Cup.
The ExCo has so far discussed corruption allegations surrounding Qatar’s bid, as well as human rights abuses amongst its migrant laborer workforce.
One of its outgoing members, German Theo Zwanziger, has been one of Qatar’s most high-profile critics and has gone so far as predicting that the country would be stripped of its right to host the tournament.
However, Zwanziger’s main argument – that Qatar’s intense summer heat posed a risk to players and spectators alike – was effectively extinguished after the ExCo voted last month to move the 2022 tournament to November/December.
The ExCo must still determine the number of stadiums that will be used during Qatar’s World Cup.
While the country’s initial bid proposed 12, FIFA officials have more recently softened expectations by saying a dozen stadiums was never under serious consideration and that most host nations only use 10.
Some observers have suggested that eight stadiums – the minimum required by FIFA – could suffice in a compact country such as Qatar.
Al Mohannadi’s aborted bid for a FIFA executive committee seat comes two years after another Qatar candidate, Hassan Al Thawadi, failed to garner enough votes to be elected to the body in 2013.
Al Thawadi is the secretary-general of Qatar’s World Cup organizing committee, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy.
This week, Reuters reported that Kuwait’s Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, who is president of the Olympic Council of Asia, is heavily favored to win one of the three seats up for grabs. Oman’s Khalid Al Busaidi is also running.
Al Mohannadi called on the two Gulf candidates to settle on one individual for the FIFA executive committee seat allocated to the West Zone, arguing it is desirable to avoid divisions in the region.
Last month, the AFC released an official list of candidates that said four individuals are vying for the other two seats: Malaysian Prince Abdullah Al-Haj Ibni Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah, Japan’s Kohzo Tashima, South Korea’s Chung Mong Gyu and Dato’ Worawi Makudi of Thailand.
However, Reuters said that one of those seats will automatically be filled by AFC president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa.
Next month, FIFA will hold presidential elections that will see incumbent Sepp Blatter square off against retired Portuguese footballer Luis Figo, Royal Dutch Football Association chairman Michael van Praag, and Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, a FIFA vice-president.
All of the candidates have said they support keeping the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.