Jordanians hope their prince will rescue FIFA
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.