The Blue Tigers’ move into the new organization is designed to enable them to face stiffer competition within Asia.
On Thursday night, a new football bloc was born in Jeddah. Saudi Arabia have been pushing for the formation of a new footballing sub-association for quite some months after the West Asian Football Federation refused to relocate its offices to the nation.
The newly-formed bloc has been christened the South West Asian Football Federation (SWAFF) and as the name suggests, consists of members of the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) and a few from the West Asian Football Federation (WAFF).
The nations represented at the meeting included India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Maldives, Yemen, Oman, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Although, Bhutan weren’t present at the meeting, sources say they will be a part of the structure.
India being a part of this organisation is a huge impetus for the country on many counts. They will, at last, be able to participate in a regional tournament which consists of teams stronger than them and also get better exposure.
Another factor that will affect Indian football is that they will be able to have a greater say in the affairs of the AFC as they will be a backed by the muscle of the SWAFF. They are also now liable to gain technical input from the West Asian nations who have grown exponentially in the football world.
Now, formation of a new bloc would generally mean dematerialization of older blocs or their marginalization due to only a minuscule number of countries being left in them, but that’s not the case. The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has other plans.
Last week, AFC President, Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, a member of the Bahraini Royal family, met with Dr Adel Ezzat, the President of the Saudi Arabin Football Federation, who is leading the SWAFF movement. Following the meeting, these statements were released which show what SWAFF will be doing within the Asian football scenario.
The AFC in a formal statement said, “We had an open and honest discussion on the formation of SWAFF and I made it clear to Mr Ezzat that the AFC had no objection as long as it remains as a football body outside of the AFC’s zonal structure,” Shaikh Salman, a member of the Bahraini royal family, was quoted as saying.
“SWAFF can come into existence on the lines of the Arab Gulf Cup Football Federation or the Union of Arab Football Associations, which are not part of the AFC, but serve the greater purpose of bringing together many Gulf and Arab countries for the sole purpose of football development.
“I am happy to note that Mr Ezzat agreed and confirmed that the establishment of SWAFF will not have any impact on the AFC’s five existing zones and their current composition.”
Here is what these politically correct statements mean:
- There is no opposition to the formation of SWAFF.
- The SWAFF will function outside of the AFC and the five zones it is made up of.
- SWAFF members maintain their current affiliations to SAFF and WAFF.
- SWAFF will form a strong footballing alliance due to its numbers and dominate the proceedings of the AFC in spite of not being an affiliated body.
So, having established that the centre of power in the AFC is surely going to shift, the question arises as to where FIFA stand on this issue? Well, they are being neutral and non-partisan as always.
Although, they did send an observer to the formation meeting in Jeddah, they have made no comments and most importantly expressed no opposition to SWAFF. This was expected to be so as SWAFF comprises of huge powerbrokers in both the political world and the world of football.
So to summarize, we can say that the AFC and its current affiliates stay as they were and will not be affected. But there will be an additional tournament most probably added into the calendar and also a new power cluster in the AFC has been established.
Dr Adel Ezzat had this to say at the launch, “The nations of South and West Asia want to work with each other to grow football in the region, and to compete on a more equal playing field at future World Cup competitions and international tournaments.”
With inputs from Reuters.