Asia’s powerful Olympic chief Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah on Wednesday underlined his support for Sepp Blatter to remain as FIFA president despite a challenge by Jordan’s Prince Ali bin Al Hussein.
The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) president said it was “too early” for Prince Ali, 39, to take over from Blatter, 78, who will stand for a fifth term in charge of the world football body.
The Kuwaiti is considered highly influential in world sport, owing to his leadership of both the OCA and the Association of National Olympic Committees.
“When I commit, I commit. I repeat my commitment to Blatter for him to run for one more term,” Sheikh Ahmad said during a visit to the Indonesian capital Jakarta.
“As to Prince Ali, I support him to keep his career in FIFA. If he takes my advice, I think it is too early for him. I was speaking for Kuwait. We will support Blatter very strongly and we will not allow anyone to challenge him.”
Prince Ali is an ally of Blatter rival and UEFA president Michel Platini, meaning he can count on a significant number of the European body’s 54 votes in the election in May.
But he may have trouble winning support in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), whose leadership is close to Sheikh Ahmed and has also strongly backed Blatter.
Blatter has become a deeply controversial figure following a series of scandals including over the bidding process for hosting the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, won by Russia and Qatar respectively.
Prince Ali, a FIFA vice-president, has a clean reputation after spearheading a number of grassroots programmes and leading the push for FIFA to relax its ban on religious headwear.
But Sheikh Ahmad, in Jakarta to check on preparations for the 2018 Asian Games, said he would not go back on his public commitment to veteran campaigner Blatter.
“For the FIFA issue, I was asked officially, I stood up in Kuala Lumpur two years ago. I announced in the AFC General Assembly as a Kuwait delegate to support Blatter very openly,” he said.
“I was there and 46 football federations were there. The whole room gave a big round of applause supporting that.”