DOHA: A senior Qatari official who recently overturned a one-year FIFA ban said on Tuesday the case against him was “political” and may stand again for the all-powerful FIFA Council.
Saoud Al-Mohannadi, the Qatar Football Association’s vice-president, was making his first public comments since winning his appeal against the ban, handed down by a FIFA ethics committee last year.
He was also fined 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,000, 18,700 euros) for refusing to cooperate with a corruption inquiry.
But in a rare reversal, Al-Mohannadi last month successfully overturned the sanctions against him.
“I was condemned with the wrong decision and it just took the appeals committee of FIFA to see that,” Al-Mohannadi told AFP.
“They didn’t have a case, they knew that it was political.
“I wanted to clear my name after all these years in football, you know you don’t want to end your career with suspicion, especially if you had no wrongdoing.”
Asked who was behind the politics, Al-Mohannadi replied: “You can say FIFA in general, and I don’t blame FIFA now because of all this what’s happening around FIFA and football.”
Al-Mohannadi’s long-running case has proved controversial for football’s scandal-hit governing body and now threatens to overshadow next month’s FIFA Congress in Bahrain.
Just three days before, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) will hold a meeting and vote in Bahrain to elect members to the FIFA Council, which the governing body says “sets the vision for FIFA and global football”.
This is the ballot which Al-Mohannadi, also vice-president of the AFC, is currently excluded from, having missed a deadline to stand which passed during his ban.
Asked if he still might put his name forward, Al-Mohannadi said he was “examining” the issue.
He also said he would attend the meeting in Bahrain.
It was the furore over the AFC’s abandoned FIFA Council vote last September which brought Al-Mohannadi’s case to wider attention.
The Qatari, one of the favourites to win, was stopped at the very last minute from standing for election.
Outraged AFC members, some believing FIFA was using its ethics body to influence the result of the election, cancelled the vote.
Two months later Al-Mohannadi was banned for a year for refusing to help in an investigation, FIFA announced.
Although the target of the inquiry was not specified, AFP understands that it involved a FIFA investigation into Najeeb Chirakal, a personal assistant to Mohamed bin Hammam, the Qatari powerbroker thought most responsible for bringing the World Cup to the Gulf in 2022.
When being handed the ban, Al-Mohannadi was accused of infringing “his duty to collaborate as a witness in proceedings”.
It was this ruling that FIFA’s appeal committee dismissed.
Papers seen by AFP show the committee ruled “that the evidence available” was not “sufficient” to support the initial findings and ban.