Asian football’s highest individual accolade – the AFC Diamond of Asia – has been awarded to His Majesty Seri Paduka Baginda the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah Ibni Almarhum Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Al-Musta’in Billah in recognition for his valuable contributions spanning more than three decades to the game in Asia.
Born on July 30, 1959 in Pahang, Malaysia, the 16th King of Malaysia developed an interest in football at a young age and his impact has been instrumental in raising the standards of the game on the Continent.
HM Al-Sultan Abdullah was quick to pay tribute to his late father Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Al-Musta’in Billah, who was also a recipient of the Diamond of Asia in 2011.
His Majesty said: “Football has been in my blood since I was a child and it is such a privilege to be part of a distinguished list of recipients that include some of the greatest personalities and legends in Asian football.
“Furthermore, I am happy to be able to honour my father’s legacy as he has contributed immensely to football in Malaysia and Asia. He is my source of inspiration and it is to him that I dedicate this award.
“I would also like to pay tribute to my colleagues who devoted their time and wise counsel through the years and brought Asian football to where it is today. We have made enormous strides in recent years, and I am confident that the AFC will continue to spread the joy of the game, unite and rally diverse communities and build on its strong foundations to usher greater success in the years to come.”
Credited as one of the most progressive voices in Malaysian and Asian football, HM Al-Sultan Abdullah was steadfast in upholding the integrity of the game and laid down the foundations in the fight against match manipulation during his earlier tenure in 1994 as Deputy President of FA of Malaysia (FAM).
His Majesty continued to serve Malaysian football before holding the post of President in 2014, where he introduced a comprehensive range of programmes to boost and develop the sport in the country.
Elected as AFC Vice President in 2002, His Majesty dedicated almost 20 years of distinguished service in several key positions including Chairman of the Organising Committee for the highly successful AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015, Chairman of the AFC Technical Committee as well as the AFC Development Committee.
AFC President, Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, who presented the award to His Majesty at the Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, said: “The Asian football family has benefited immensely from His Majesty Al-Sultan Abdullah’s invaluable contributions over the decades. His vision, dedication, and love for our game have helped immensely to grow our sport in Asia.
“We have been enriched and inspired by His Majesty’s dedicated service and we are extremely proud to be honouring him.”
His Majesty also chaired the AFC Governance Task Force which was responsible for delivering important reforms to help the AFC achieve its Vision and Mission objectives while ensuring the highest standards of professionalism and good governance at the Confederation.
Widely regarded as a guiding light not only for Asian football but also for his contributions in world football, he was elected to the FIFA Council in 2015, where he served until 2019.
He also served as a member of the FIFA Technical Committee in 1995, FIFA Youth Committee and the Organising Committee of the FIFA Confederations Cup in France in 2003.
HM Al-Sultan Abdullah is the fifteenth recipient of the AFC Diamond of Asia Award, and joins his late father Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Al-Musta’in Billah (2011) as the only father and son duo to be bestowed the elite accolade in Asian football history. – www.the-afc.com