The Malta FA have nominated Prince Ali bin al-Hussein for the upcoming FIFA presidential election with Norman Darmanin Demajo, the head of local football’s governing body, stressing yesterday that his decision was guided by the principles of “loyalty and integrity”.
Prince Ali, defeated by Sepp Blatter at the last election only for the latter to announce a few days later that he was laying down his mandate, unfurled his second bid for the FIFA presidency last month.
Gianni Infantino, the UEFA general secretary who also has close ties with the top MFA officials, threw his hat in the ring at the 11th hour, bringing the total of can-didates to eight by the close of no-minations on Monday night.
Addressing the FIFA presidency issue for the first time since the world body’s last congress in May, Darmanin Demajo provided a detailed account of the key events that shaped the Malta FA’s decisions and level of involvement in the on-going FIFA saga.
The overriding theme was that the MFA have been consistent in opposing the way Blatter had been running FIFA.
“Malta has been mentioned several times amid all the twists and turns that have characterised the FIFA presidency issue since the last election,” Darmanin Demajo told the MFA Council yesterday.
“I received a number of interview requests from the media to speak about this matter but I was waiting for the opportunity to give all the details here (during the Council meeting).”
Darmanin Demajo recalled that, on June 1, 2011, the MFA was one of only 17 football associations that voted against Blatter when the latter stood unopposed for another term at the helm of FIFA following the sanctions imposed on Qatari Mo-hammed Bin Hammam.
“Although there were no other candidates for that election, we felt that Blatter shouldn’t be elected with a clean sheet,” Darmanin Demajo told the assembly.
The MFA president then spoke about how embattled UEFA chief Michel Platini had asked for his thoughts on FIFA during a meeting in the Netherlands.
“We agreed that Sepp Blatter should be contested,” Darmanin Demajo said.
“What I told Platini was that we can’t keep complaining about Blatter if there are no challengers as, at the time, Platini had already let it be known that he was not going to stand for FIFA president (in 2011 election).”
Darmanin Demajo made it clear that it was a top UEFA official who had approached the MFA to nominate Prince Ali for the last election, adding that he had first met the latter two years earlier when he visited a refugee camp in Jordan as part of a football social responsibility project.
“The reason we were asked to nominate Prince Ali was because, apparently, most of the other associations were afraid to do so,” Darmanin Demajo said.
“I spoke to Bjorn (Vassallo) and we accepted.
“A few months later, Prince Ali called to invite me to travel with him for the congress meetings of the confederations.
“I told him to give me some time to consult UEFA, also in light of the fact that in the meantime two other European candidates, Michael van Praag and Luis Figo, had declared their intention to contest Blatter.
“The reply from UEFA was that we should try to give Prince Ali all the support we could.”
Darmanin Demajo said he attended meetings in Cairo, Bahamas and Bahrain, in the process becoming friends with Prince Ali whom he described as “friendly, down-to-earth and softly-spoken”.
“The election came and everyone knows what happened after,” Darmanin Demajo added.
“Three days later, Blatter resigned and the race for the presidency became an open game.”
Darmanin Demajo said he saw no reason why the Malta FA shouldn’t nominate Prince Ali for a second time when he announced his candidacy for the February election, adding that UEFA initially had no qualms about this until Platini put himself forward for the FIFA post.
Although Darmanin Demajo was careful not to lambast UEFA, he emphasised he was never going to backtrack on his promise to nomi-nate Prince Ali, stressing that he will never betray the values of “loyalty and integrity”, a statement that was greeted with nods of approval from the Council members.
“At the last TEP meeting, that was held in Malta, Platini asked me why I had not signed the declaration supporting his candidacy and I explained that UEFA had put him in an awkward position,” Darmanin Demajo added.
“I couldn’t turn my back on Prince Ali and I felt more comfortable making my feelings known to Michel Platini.”
Darmanin Demajo said things took an unexpected twist earlier this month when Platini and Blatter were suspended for 90 days by the FIFA Ethics Committee over a payment of €1.8 million the UEFA chief allegedly received from his FIFA counterpart for consultancy work carried out nine years earlier.
The MFA have signed a resolution backing Platini’s efforts to try and clear his name the soonest possible.
Darmanin Demajo said everything was fine with UEFA during the TEP and Executive Committee meetings that were held here last month but all hell broke loose thereafter.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen how UEFA will respond if Platini is cleared to stand for FIFA president as Infantino’s nomination is being widely interpreted as a bold move aimed at making sure that there is a European candidate for the February 26 election.