Muscat: Oman is set to join a new FIFA-backed football organisation dedicated to increasing the popularity of the sport in South and West Asia.
The new body, which will be officially known as the South West Asian Football Federation (SWAFF), will include Oman, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Yemen, Bahrain, Maldives, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh as its founding members. The organisation has already received the go-ahead from FIFA.
“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,” said Dr Adel Ezzat, president and chairman of Saudi Arabian Football Federation, during a recent meeting with representatives of all SWAFF founding members.
Makhdoom Faisal Hayat, President of the Pakistan Football Federation, said, “The initiative of SWAFF is a milestone in the development of football in Pakistan and other nations. There is no doubt it is a new frontier of football...,” said Makhdoom Faisal Hayat, president of the Pakistan Football Federation.
One of the key aims of the new body is to increase World Cup participation among member states. Saudi Arabia is the only nation in the region to reach the finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup and is scheduled to play Russia in the opening game of world football’s showcase event.
“We want to see the region become a presence in world football,” Dr Ezzat said. The new body plans to work with partners, governments, federations and other interested parties in the region to establish new football facilities, academies, and competitions. These will be developed in harmony and in collaboration with FIFA, AFC, and Football Federations within South and West Asia, and within existing football structures, schedules and commitments.
“When we spoke about governance, FIFA is really supporting and encouraging such initiatives, Gianni (FIFA President Gianni Infantino), by himself also welcomed the initiative,” said Abdulla Aljunaibi, vice-president of the UAE football federation.
Funds from new football events and commercial programmes will be re-invested into football development to help create a new football sector and culture in member nations that areself-sufficient and fully transparent.