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Asia witnesses soccer power shift

Chung loses FIFA post to Jordanian prince

It was a shock to Chung Mong-joon that the Asian Football Confederation decided not to re-appoint him as the FIFA vice president for Asia.

The 45-member committee voted Thursday 25-20 in favor of Prince Ali bin al-Hussein over Chung at the Asian Football Confederation’s meeting in Doha.

Chung, 59, had been in the job for 16 years and was widely expected to serve another four-year term. Instead, Chung left the conference hall without comment after the shock defeat to the 35-year-old Prince Ali.

Chung, the honorary president of the Korea Football Association, has long been the lone Korean representative on the FIFA board. And now with Chung’s defeat, the country no longer has a representative on the world’s football governing body nor the AFC. 
Chung Mong-joon (right) congratulates Jordan’s Prince Ali bin al-Hussein after losing his FIFA title Thursday. (AFP-Yonhap News)
Chung Mong-joon (right) congratulates Jordan’s Prince Ali bin al-Hussein after losing his FIFA title Thursday. (AFP-Yonhap News)

Chung became the head of KFA in 1993, and the following year he won his first FIFA vice presidency. During his term, he helped Korea co-host the 2002 World Cup with Japan and the country enjoy rapid growth in football ― last year, notably, the national team qualified for its seventh consecutive World Cup finals, and the women’s U17 team won its first ever FIFA World Cup title.

Local pundits now worry that without Chung’s influence on the football governing body, Korea could be marginalized on the world stage.

“It’ll take a long time to find Chung’s replacement. It’s a huge blow to Korean football,” Lee Yong-soo, a football commentator and professor at Sejong University told local reporters.

The result came just weeks after the FIFA chose Qatar for the 2022 World Cup, underlining a power shift in the world’s football governing body toward the Middle East.

Asia sends four delegates to FIFA’s executive committee, including one of eight FIFA vice presidents. On Thursday, along with Qatar’s Mohamed Bin Hammam, who won his third term as the president of AFC, Thailand’s Worawi Makudi and Vernon Manilal Fernando of Sri Lanka, who beat Kohzo Tashima of Japan and China’s Zhang Jilong, were elected for those posts.

Reports suggest that Prince Ali’s victory also gives a boost to FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who is scheduled for re-election in June, to retain the seat that he has kept since 1998.

Sheikh Ahmad Ali Fahad Al Sabah, the chief of the Kuwait football federation who also heads the Olympic Council Asia, acknowledged that he voted for Prince Ali to bring “unity and change.” He also added that he would support Blatter when he stands for re-election.

“I can announce that the 25 people who voted for Prince Ali today will vote for President Blatter, because he deserves to continue as FIFA president.”

Chung, along with Mohammed Bin Hammam, was seen as a strong candidate to end the 74-year-old Swiss chief’s regime. But Thursday’s result means Chung has lost his chance to challenge Blatter as well as become the first Asian FIFA president.

By Oh Kyu-wook (596story@heraldcorp.com)
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