By Jesse Fink
Well, look at this. Worawi Makudi’s thrown his hat in the ring to be the next president of the Asian Football Confederation.
Worawi Makudi. You might remember the name. It’s been associated with a number of news stories these past few years.
That business with Lord Triesman. World Cup 2010 tickets. Port of Spain. Nong Chok title deeds. A Thai parliamentary probe. A shambolic stadium cock-up at the Futsal World Cup.
Any of it ring a bell?
Let’s hope. Because the leaders of the ASEAN Football Federation and Football Federation Australia seem to be suffering a collective case of amnesia – or worse, they don’t bloody care.
How else to explain their endorsement of Makudi for Asian football’s most important position?
Said AFF president His Royal Highness Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah: “We examined our unity and solidarity and have decided to be united in choosing a leader for Asia.”
To which Makudi responded: “My main target as the AFC president would be to bring everybody together and to unite the Asian Football Confederation.”
Is Southeast Asia really that hard up for a suitable candidate that AFF and FFA can rally behind a man who is so unpopular in his own country that a fan-based organisation, Cheerthai Power, had to mobilise to put forward its own candidate, Pinit Ngarmpring, in elections for the presidency of Makudi’s Thailand Football Association (FAT)?
How can Makudi seriously say he will unite Asian football when he can’t even unite Thai football?
As one Thai football insider told me this week: “The Thai football community sees this as a good sign, considering he will stay away from Thai football.”
Yet the AFF and FFA regard him as a good choice? As I see it, you could nominate the dead guy from Weekend at Bernie’s and those two organisations wouldn’t know the difference.
How, when the region has expressed its desire to make a formal bid for the 2030 World Cup, can they get behind an individual who, as head of FAT, couldn’t even ensure the main stadium for the 2012 Futsal World Cup in Bangkok met FIFA standards?
Bangkok newspaper The Nation called Makudi “the main figure behind this debacle”.
Asian football is in desperate need of reform and a new culture of transparency and in my opinion Makudi represents the opposite. He’s an old-style football politician who, according to his critics inside Thailand, has run FAT like a closed shop.
Ngarmpring’s main election promise of his “ten-year plan”, tellingly, is transparency.
According to Ngarmpring, there hasn’t been nearly enough of that from FAT under Makudi.
So why, when the AFC is entering a crucial rebuilding phase after the controversial Mohamed Bin Hammam presidency, a juncture when restoring the faith and trust of Asian football fans is an overriding priority, would AFF and FFA even entertain the idea of endorsing someone who has about as much popularity among the football-going public in Thailand as Sepp Blatter does in England?
The mind boggles. Especially when Makudi has links to Qatar.
There is his association with Bin Hammam.
Wrote Keir Radnedge on February 25: “[Makudi] flew to Port of Spain with Bin Hammam to attend a FIFA presidential conference attended by members of the Caribbean Football Union. Within days Qatari Bin Hammam was hit with bribery allegations (which he has always denied) over the offering of $40,000 in cash to each of the CFU delegations for expenses. Makudi has always insisted he knew nothing about the cash.”
There are reports that he voted for Qatar 2022. An odd decision when he had a chance to support a World Cup bid – Australia’s – in his own region.
Was Qatar’s proposal to build a football academy in Thailand a coincidence?
Why on earth does FFA, which bid for 2022 with $45.6 million of Australian taxpayers’ money only to end up with one vote, support Makudi?
Why does AFF support him when Thailand’s organisational failure at the 2012 Futsal World Cup embarrassed the region and harmed its chances of being taken seriously in 2030?
Who will Makudi really be representing if he gets Asian football’s top job?
If you ask me, his candidacy is a bad joke. But when it comes to Southeast Asian football, the comedy never ends.