Jordanians hope their prince will rescue FIFA

Friday 05/06/2015
Special trip

With the sudden res­ignation of Sepp Blatter, less than a week after he was re-elected FIFA president, Jordanians hope the popular younger half-brother of their king will contest and win the new elections to run football’s gov­erning world body.
Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, 39, pulled out of the May 31st elec­tion for the post after Blatter took the first round of voting by FIFA’s member federations, 133-73. While a two-thirds majority — 140 votes — was needed to win in the first round, a simple majority could claim victory in the second, lead­ing Ali to withdraw. Blatter, 79, was elected FIFA president for a fifth four-year term.
The battle for the presidency in­furiated Jordanians, who saw some Arab football chiefs, particularly the head of Palestinian football, openly supporting Blatter against Ali, the FIFA vice-president for West Asia. That was seen as a snub to Jordan’s Hashemite rulers, who claim ances­try to Islam’s Prophet Mohammad and have hosted thousands of Pal­estinian refugees for generations.
But when Blatter suddenly an­nounced his resignation June 2nd — to go into effect in six to nine months — Jordanian hopes re­kindled. Hours after Blatter’s an­nouncement, Ali suggested he may run in the new elections, slated to be contested between December this year and March 2016, but did not give a firm commitment.
Even so, Salah Sabra, the deputy chief of the Jordan Football Asso­ciation (JFA) told The Arab Weekly the prince was “ready to take up the responsibility as the head of FIFA”. JFA member Tareq Khoury also told The Arab Weekly that Ali “will con­test the upcoming elections”.
The first round of elections culmi­nated in a diplomatic tiff between Jordan and Palestinian Football Association (PFA) Chairman Jibril Rajoub. Though the Kuwaiti and Qatari football chiefs also backed Blatter, Jordanians were especially enraged by Rajoub as he is a Jorda­nian citizen.
His rebuff of the prince sparked loud calls for Rajoub’s Jordanian citizenship to be revoked and for the PFA chief to be barred from us­ing Jordan as a transit point to trav­el abroad from the Palestinian West Bank.
The spat forced Palestinian Presi­dent Mahmoud Abbas to make a day-long trip to Jordan on June 2nd to iron matters out.
“Jordanians and Palestinians are one people. No actions or state­ments will embitter our close rela­tionship. We are brothers and we will remain as such,” Abbas said after visiting Ali at his home in Am­man.
Standing next to Abbas, Ali said jokingly, “They are my uncles” — referring to his Palestinian blood through his late mother, Queen Alia Touqan, a Palestinian who died in a helicopter crash in 1977.
Popular anger at Rajoub however remained undimmed.
“Rajoub is a traitor and will re­main a traitor even if Prince Ali wins the new FIFA elections,” wrote ac­tivist Saeed Mufti on his Facebook page June 3rd. His comment earned praise from more than 7,200 Jorda­nians and Palestinians.
For many Jordanians, the elec­tion of Ali, a Sandhurst-trained former special forces officer, would inject new life into a football estab­lishment plagued with corruption.
“We need young people to head FIFA because Blatter is old and FIFA became infested with corruption under him,” said 29 year-old Jorda­nian soccer fan Younis Shehadeh.