Gianni Infantino praised the success of Asian football during the 32nd Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Congress, where he received wholehearted support for his candidacy in next year’s FIFA Presidential election.
Emphasising his close working relationship with AFC President and FIFA Senior Vice-President Shaikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, the FIFA President pledged to keep working “side by side” with the AFC and said that continuity would bring even greater results, ahead of a most important year for football in Asia, with the FIFA World Cup™ kicking off in Qatar in just over 6 months from now.
"Let me start by saying how honoured and humbled I am today, here, in front of you for your support, for your trust, for your commitment to continue working together. This means a lot to me and to FIFA," he said. "My commitment to all of you…is to continue working with you. To continue working side by side as a team player, together with you, as part of the same team to make football truly global, to make sure football develops and evolves all over the world and, in particular, in Asia. Together we will succeed, so thank you for your trust and friendship."
The FIFA President, speaking from Bahrain, said Asian football's response to the COVID-19 pandemic reflected Shaikh Salman’s leadership.
“I have to congratulate all of you for how you handled the pandemic; for how you came back and brought back football in Asia; for how you are working to develop the game, to boost the game step by step, always in the right direction. The success is there in front of all of you."
"This is, of course, the merit of your leadership, of Shaikh Salman, who is my teammate and I’m his teammate, and I’m sure that this continuity in the future will also bring great results – even greater results – for Asia and of course for global football." Referring to his relationship with Shaikh Salman, he added: "I think we have shown over the years what it means to work together for football."
For his part, Shaikh Salman thanked Gianni Infantino for the way has supported Member Associations in Asia in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and expressed full support from the AFC for the FIFA President’s bid to be re-elected next year.
“The Asian football family is forever grateful to President Infantino for his steadfast support and commitment to developing the game in our continent,” he said. “I can assure him today that we will stand united behind his candidature.”
The FIFA President also congratulated Philippines and Vietnam for qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, where they will make their first appearances at the finals. “This shows the health and the great job that is [being] done in Asian football,” he said. “What we want is that every year will be Asia’s year because it is so obvious from the work that you are doing that the only path that you know is the path upwards."
He also gave his backing to the possibility of building an AFC stadium in Kuala Lumpur. “It is a great project, it is a great legacy for Asian football,” he said. “FIFA and I will definitely support that because it’s exactly in the spirit of what we want: a football project, football infrastructure, football development for men, for women, for boys and for girls, for referees, for the whole Asian population.”