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FIFA boss undeterred by Asian congress snub

Panaji (India) (AFP) – FIFA president Gianni Infantino played down an embarrassing rebuke by Asia’s football body on Tuesday after it scrapped elections to the world body’s new council in protest at the barring of a candidate.

The FIFA boss watched as Asian Football Confederation (AFC) delegates voted 42-1 against adopting the agenda for their extraordinary congress in Goa, halting the meeting after just 20 minutes.

The move, in protest at FIFA’s late decision to bar a candidate from Qatar, leaves the world governing body’s new council — intended to help wipe away years of corruption — three Asian members short.

“It’s what democracy is about. We are going through a reform process in FIFA. The confederations are going through a reform process as well,” Infantino told reporters. 

“This takes discussions, this takes time, this takes meetings, this takes postponements of meetings as well. This is simply part of a normal process that football is going through these days. 

“In that point of view whatever can contribute to make football progress, be it at FIFA level, confederation level, at AFC, is always welcome.”

Asian delegates were angered that FIFA barred Qatar Football Association vice-president Saoud Al-Mohannadi from standing for one of the council seats.

Scandal-plagued FIFA’s ethics committee last month recommended a two-and-a-half-year ban for Al-Mohannadi for refusing to cooperate with a corruption investigation.

Infantino said the incomplete FIFA Council would go ahead with its first meeting next month as planned, adding that he was unfazed by a delay in filling all the seats.

“FIFA has a history of 112 years. A few months more or a few months less will not make a difference in the great scheme of things but we will do things right,” he said.

– ‘Period of turbulence’ –

Infantino was elected in February promising to clean up FIFA after the departure of his disgraced predecessor, Sepp Blatter. But his tenure has hit early problems.

FIFA audit and compliance chief Domenico Scala quit in May, accusing Infantino of trying to compromise the organisation’s independent committees and acting with an authoritarian streak.

In August, FIFA’S ethics committee cleared him of ethics violations after investigating him over his use of private jets, personal expenses, hiring methods and a contract dispute. 

And this month, he was accused of helping Slovenia’s Aleksander Ceferin win the vote to head European body UEFA. FIFA has also come under fire this week for scrapping its anti-racism task force.

“There are many challenges and we’re going through a period of some turbulence generally in football governance,” Infantino said. 

“We are moving on, we are progressing, everyone sees and understands the changes and reforms that are necessary and we’re implementing these reforms.

“The only thing that is lacking is the time because everyone would like to see immediate results. But changes as well as results on the pitch need some time.

“The world is big place with different mentalities, with different cultures, with different ways of thinking and we need always times to implement what we want to do.”

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