By Nick Butler at the Holiday Inn Resort Hotel in Phuket
Malaysia’s Asian Football Confederation (AFC) vice-president and FIFA Executive Committee candidate, Prince Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah has admitted Qatar was a controversial choice to host the 2022 World Cup but claimed they are “fully capable of making it happen”.
Prince Abdullah, also President of the Football Association of Malaysia and chairman of the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia, is currently campaigning to become one of three new Asian members of the Executive Committee in elections due to take place in April.
After involvement in football spanning almost 30 years, he feels the World Cup’s return to the continent in eight years time deems it a good time to step up to the sport’s most influential body.
Speaking during a brief visit here to attend the Asian Beach Games, Prince Abdullah claimed that Qatar should not be stripped of the right to host the tournament after a FIFA investigation found no evidence of corruption.
“I feel that we have to give due respect to FIFA for the decision,” the Crown Prince, who also heads the Asian Hockey Federation, told insidethegames.
“From some quarters it is the wrong position and from others it is the right decision, but a decision is a decision.
“If more allegations are made, I think they should go through due process, but should not come back to the decision made on Qatar.
“I think they are capable of making it happen, and the fact they have hosted many major events – that alone speaks for itself.
“Give this chance to Qatar and I believe they have the will and the means to do it, so why not?
He added that he “believes the right decision will be made soon” on when in the year to hold the tournament, given the problems with the calendar and hot summer temperatures.
Prince Abdullah, who is seeking an increase on the four FIFA World Cup slots currently allocated to Asian countries as a key part of this manifesto, also spoke positively about the world’s largest continent’s contribution to the global game.
When asked about the reputation of the Executive Committee following the allegations, he insisted he did not want to “pre-empt the position or stir any issues” but highlighted “working as a team” as crucial.
Among his likely rivals for the positions will be incumbents Wowrawi Makudi of Thailand and China’s Olympic Council of Asia Sports Committee head Zhang Jilong, as well as others potentially including Qatari Hassan Al Thawadi, who missed out 18 months ago.
Prince Abdullah believes more needs to be done to improve Asian fortunes on the pitch, although he praised the state of the game in a commercial and organisational sense.
The Asian Cup, taking place on Australian soil for the first time following the Oceanic nation being accepted as a AFC member in 2006, will be one positive step, marking “new territory” for the event, he added.
The presence of Palestine, who qualified despite “difficult circumstances” at home, was cited as a particular highlight.