FIFA kingpin quits in fallout from latest federal plea

Many soccer fans of a certain age will have remembered Sheikh Ahmad's father. Only those who have followed soccer politics in recent years will know Sheikh Ahmad himself.

Sheikh Fahad was president of the Kuwaiti Football Association in 1982 when he was at the center of one of the most bizarre scenes in the history of the World Cup.

Kuwait was already trailing France, 3-1, and headed for defeat when Alain Giresse scored to make the score 4-1. But the Kuwaitis complained they heard a referee's whistle in the stands and had stopped playing because of it. Sheikh Fahad, brother of Kuwait's ruling emir, ran on the field to protest and threatened Soviet referee Miroslav Stupar his team would walk off the field if the goal was not disallowed. Sure enough, Stupar disallowed the goal and Sheikh Fahad walked back into his VIP box.

France went on to score again -- this time the goal was allowed -- and it won, 4-1. Eight years later, France traveled to Kuwait to play France in a friendly, and Sheikh Fahad apologized to Michal Platini, the French captain in 1982 and French head coach in 1990, for what he did. Months later, Sheikh Fahad was killed defending the Kuwaiti royal palace in the Kuwaiti invasion.

The first time soccer fans would have heard of his son, Skeikh Ahmad, was coincidentally in connection with Platini. When Sepp Blatter resigned as FIFA president in 2015, Platini and Sheikh Fahad were those most often mentioned as favorites to replace Blatter. Platini was the president of UEFA, and Sheikh Ahmad, formerly the general secretary of OPEC, had become a king-maker in the world of international sports.

Platini's bid for FIFA president was derailed when he became mixed up in an ethical scandal with Blatter. Sheikh Ahmad, noticeable for his long hair, backed Blatter against Prince Ali of Jordan in Blatter's 2015 re-election weeks and then Sheikh Salman of Bahrain against Gianni Infantino, the eventual winner, Prince Ali and Frenchman Jerome Champagne in the 2016 special election to replace Blatter.

One of the memorable scenes of that election was U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, who had emerged as a key powerbroker in his own right, first backing Prince Ali and then Infantino, and Sheikh Ahmad in an animated discussion (arguing their vote counts?) on the dais reserved for members of the FIFA executive committee.

Well, Sheikh Ahmad resigned from FIFA on Sunday, the latest big-wig caught up in the FIFA scandals. His resignation came three days after Guam Football Association president Richard Lai pleaded guilty in Federal court pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud conspiracy and one count of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts in connection with the payment of over $850,000 in bribes between 2009 and 2014 from senior Kuwaiti officials.

The Department of Justice identified an unnamed “co-conspirator #2" as "a high-ranking official of FIFA, the Kuwait Football Association (KFA) and the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA)" and “ultimately elected to the FIFA Executive Committee." Only only person has that resume: Sheikh Ahmad.

In a statement released by the Olympic Council of Asia of which he is president, Sheikh Ahmad said right after Lai's plea he was "very surprised by such allegations and strongly denies any wrongdoing" but two days later quit his FIFA post that included a seat on the body's reform committee.

“I do not want these allegations to create divisions or distract attention from the upcoming AFC and FIFA congresses,” he said, referring to the Asian Football Confederation elections postponed from earlier this year. Both congresses will be held in Bahrain. (The FIFA congress will be of interest as the USA, Canada and Mexico will have their petition to have an exclusive bidding window to make their case for hosting the 2026 World Cup heard.)

In the meantime, Sheikh Ahmad can go about his other sports businesses. He is considered an even more powerful in Olympic sports community, serving as a member of the IOC, in addition to his post on the Olympic Council of Asia and position of president of the Association of the National Olympic Committees.
1 comment about "FIFA kingpin quits in fallout from latest federal plea".
  1. Ric Fonseca, May 2, 2017 at 1:20 p.m.

    Hey did US Soccer & Co., ever completely vacate their fancy-schmanzy offices out of Trump towers, and was MLS ever in that edifice?

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