Prince Ali: FIFA's new golden child
Prince Ali bin Al Hussein laughs at the thought that when he was 25, he was friends with most of the players in the Jordanian national team but couldn't get a game because he wasn't as good as them.Updated: Jan 09, 2011 11:52 IST
Prince Ali bin Al Hussein laughs at the thought that when he was 25, he was friends with most of the players in the Jordanian national team but couldn't get a game because he wasn't as good as them. He's chuckling because as a very youthful and fit chairman of the Jordanian FA, if he could have picked himself, it is unlikely anyone would have stopped him.
"But I was never good enough," he told Reuters in an interview in the Qatari capital, "although it was great to be the same age as them." "That was very useful. There was some opposition to me from the establishment, but it was good to be close to the players and know what they were thinking. It was useful."
Instead of a playing career, the youngest son of the late King Hussein and late Queen Alia applied himself to the serious business of soccer politics. And on Thursday, still only 35, he was elected as Asia's vice-president on the FIFA Executive Committee beating the seemingly impregnable Chung Mong-joon of South Korea, who was backed by the powerful Mohamed Bin Hammam, the Qatari president of the Asian Football Confederation.
Prince Ali, who strongly supports FIFA president Sepp Blatter and has his backing in return, will become the youngest member of the executive by some considerable margin, and is intent, in as diplomatic a way as possible, to change some of the current thinking at the top.
He agrees it may take him years to have any major impact in a committee full of far older and experienced soccer politicians than himself, but he does have some fresh ideas. One, of course, regards future World Cups.
Qatar's success in securing the right to stage the 2022 World Cup finals provides the perfect catalyst for some new thinking. Intriguingly, he hinted that the concept of rotating future World Cups around the continents, could one day be re-examined.
"I don't necessarily think that it's the end of the day for anyone who lost out in the World Cup bids last month. The idea now is to go from continent to continent, but even that should not necessarily be the case," he said. "We really have to work in the future on getting the World Cup to the nations that best deserve it."
He agrees, though, that the last month has been exciting in the Middle East following Qatar's success.
"It is good to have a celebration in the Middle East, for far too long, we have not had anything to celebrate about". "Hopefully it will embrace the region and have the kind of effect on the population that the World Cups had in South Africa or in Germany in 2006 when it gave the Germans a lot of pride and unity in their country."
He also agreed that if the 2022 World Cup were to be staged in the winter months, that would not trouble him. "I know the issue was raised after the decision to host it in June and July was taken, but we need to ensure it is a success". "We would have to talk to our friends in Europe and the other continents and obviously there is a winter break in some European countries.
"It would be a lot less expensive if you didn't have to use air conditiong in the stadiums and a lot more comfortable in the winter so basically we want the best conditions for our players and fans."
Prince Ali, who was educated, among other places, at the Royal Military College in Sandhurst, England and makes no secret of his passion for Arsenal, says he has no intention of using his title or privileged background to get his way.
"If I am to serve my continent properly, then I have to listen to the needs of the majority. I didn't win this election because of my title, I won it because the national associations believed in me and that it was time for a change." "I really felt it was time to energise and utilise the position after Dr Chung's 16 years.
"I want to work closely with the other continents and create a FIFA Vice-President's Development Fund to support the pillars of my programme. In Asia we need to develop youth football, women's football, the amateur game and the professional game.
"We need to go down to the schools, find the talent, it's a big problem in many parts of Asia that children are not taken through all the steps that would happen in Europe or South America." "There is a lot of dignity in Asia but a lot of improvement needed to make Asian football better than it is now."
His election success, coupled with Qatar's World Cup vote, suggests a change in the balance of power in Asian and perhaps global, soccer politics.
Prince Ali makes no secret of his support for Blatter, but could he one day succeed him ?
"I am just looking ahead for the next four years. It would be good to have eight years in the job at least, but I am not thinking beyond that." "I have a good chance of making an impact," he said, "I listened to the national associations and they know I will deliver."
First Published: Jan 09, 2011 11:48 IST