By Sudipto Ganguly
PANAJI, India (Reuters) – FIFA president Gianni Infantino played down the significance of Tuesday’s postponement of Asian elections for seats on the new FIFA Council, saying it was all part of the reform process at soccer’s scandal-hit world governing body.
Upset at FIFA’s last minute disqualification of a Qatari candidate, delegates overwhelmingly voted down the agenda of an Asian Football Confederation extraordinary congress in Goa at which three members of the world governing body’s new Council were to be elected.
FIFA banned Qatari Saoud Al-Mohannadi from the election on Sunday because of an ongoing ethics investigation, leaving insufficient time for new candidates to join the six remaining in the field.
AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said the voting down of the agenda was “a loud and clear message” to FIFA.
Infantino, who was attending the congress, said the vote was all part of an ongoing reform process within the sport’s governing bodies.
“We are going through a reform process in FIFA, the confederations are going through a reform process as well,” Infantino told reporters after unveiling the logo for next year’s under-17 World Cup in India.
“This takes discussions, this takes time, this takes meetings, postponement of meetings as well. This is simply part of a process soccer is going through these days.”
FIFA had set a Sept. 30 deadline for elections to the Council, which replaces the Executive Committee under reforms instituted in the wake of the corruption scandal which has engulfed soccer’s governing body over the last 16 months.
The new 36-member Council, charged with setting the overall strategic direction of world soccer, will hold its first meeting in Zurich on Oct. 13-14.
“The mid-October meeting will happen with the members that are there,” Infantino said. “The deadline of Sept. 30 was proposed by the FIFA Council.
“Asia will seemingly elect their members a couple of months later. FIFA has a history of 112 years. Few months more or a few months less will not make a difference.”
Infantino, who replaced the disgraced Sepp Blatter in February’s presidential election, said FIFA was making progress towards reforms.
“Everyone sees and understands the changes necessary and we are implementing them,” the 46-year-old said. “The only thing that is lacking is the time.
“Everyone would like to see immediate results. I am the first. But changes and results need some time. The world is a big place with different mentalities, different challenges and different ways of thinking.”
(Editing by Toby Davis)