KUALA LUMPUR • Fifa President Sepp Blatter was relieved of his International Olympic Committee (IOC) ex officio membership yesterday, seven months before he will be replaced as the head of football's governing body.
The Swiss has been an ex officio IOC member since 1999. He would ordinarily have been re-elected for another eight-year term as a procedural matter at the ongoing IOC Session in Malaysia, but would be required to stand down when he leaves Fifa at the end of February.
"Mr Blatter wrote me a letter on July 23 informing me that it would be inappropriate to seek another eight-year term as he was retiring from his position at Fifa in seven months," IOC president Thomas Bach said yesterday.
Blatter was re-elected for a fifth term as Fifa president in Zurich on May 29 but announced he would lay down his mandate just four days later in the wake of the worst crisis in the football organisation's history.
Fifa was thrown into turmoil two days ahead of its presidential election when more than a dozen officials and sports marketing executives were indicted by the United States on bribery, money laundering and wire fraud charges.
Although the 79-year-old Swiss has not been accused of any wrongdoing, his stewardship has been heavily criticised and his troubled reign, that began in 1998, will come to an end when he is replaced by the winner of Fifa's next presidential election on Feb 26.
Kuwait's Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, the political kingmaker who could have a big influence on who succeeds Blatter, was yesterday coy when asked whom he wanted Asia to back.
Mooted as a possible Fifa president himself one day, Sheikh Ahmad has not thrown his hat into the ring to replace Blatter, leaving the other applicants vying for his endorsement.
"I think the first thing we have to see is that the reforms are going in the right direction," Sheikh Ahmad said at the sidelines of the IOC Session yesterday.
"I think Fifa needs reforms before anything else."
Frenchman Michel Platini is considered the early favourite to win the election but two Asian candidates could possibly challenge him.
Jordanian Prince Ali Al Hussein, who stood against Blatter at the last election, is considering running again, and South Korean billionaire Chung Mong Joon has announced that he has entered the race.
"Of course most experts will be always happy to support him(Platini) but now we have to focus on the reform of the future," Sheikh Ahmad, president of the Olympic Council of Asia and president of the powerful Association of National Committees, said yesterday at the IOC Session.