New Delhi: FIFA presidential candidate Prince Ali Al Hussein on Sunday ruled out re-opening of the 2022 World Cup bid won by Qatar if he is elected for the top job unless the Gulf country fails to address the issue of alleged rights violation of workers hired to construct the stadia.
Ali, who was here for the Asian Football Confederations Annual Awards Night, however, emphasised that issues of violation of human rights and workers rights were among important criteria for a country to be awarded the World Cup.
"As an Asian, I am asking that they (Qatar) have to abide by that (issue of alleged violations of workers rights). I have seen suggestions from Qatar especially in terms of workers rights that they want to move ahead but FIFA has to guarantee that they do so," the 39-year-old Ali, who is the current Jordan Football Association President, told a select group of Indian journalists.
"Because that is the basis of how we should be. Football can be a right conduit to serve the society and that for me is the most important thing," he added.
Ali is up against five candidates for FIFA presidency -- incumbent AFC chief Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa, UEFA Secretary General Gianni Infantino, Frenchman Jerome Champagne and South Africa's Tokyo Sexwale. UEFA chief Michel Platini also filed his nomination but his fate will be known after a decision by FIFA Ethics Adjudicatory Chamber after he was handed a 90-day ban for allegedly receiving a USD 2 million payment from disgraced former FIFA chief Sepp Blatter.
Platini has also appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against the ban.
Asked pointedly if there is any possibility of re-opening the 2022 World Cup bid won by Qatar, Ali said, "I don't think so unless something comes out that it (winning of the bid) was done in malpractice that was not brought up (earlier). If not, that is fine. But workers rights are also important. We have to make guarantee that they implement it.
"We are all equal and we are all human beings. Nobody should be treated in a wrong way. Nobody in Asia should be treated differently than anyone else. That is my view.
"My view is every country in the world has the right to host the World Cup if they have the means and capability to do so. It is not a matter of somebody is better than others. But the important thing is that things should be followed through properly. We have to implement the basic rights of people because that is an important criteria."
A few member countries, especially from Europe, have called for the re-opening of 2022 World Cup bid on the grounds of alleged malpractices and under-the-table dealings. There were also allegations of widespread rights violations of the workers hired for construction of facilities to host the 2012 World Cup.
Ali, who served as FIFA vice-president from 2011 to May 2015, also said that drastic changes need to be brought in the bidding process by basing a decision on a report filed by professional experts and not on political considerations as he laid down his plans to reform FIFA, which is currently hit by the worst corruption scandal in its history.
"The last time around the double bid was a mistake. We have to have the best practices regarding World Cup and we have to look at a system of how to do it. If you send out a team to look at different countries and a professional report needs to be the basis for how we select the World Cup venues.
"At the end of the day it is for our fans and for our players. We have also to include professional element, the opinion of the players, managers and referees. That also needs to be included in future. Then the basic norms, human rights, workers rights, these are the key.
"Based on the report, not on political basis, where a professional team goes out and visits the bidding countries. If it goes to the executive committee or congress (of the FIFA) it is not a problem if it is based on the professional report," Ali, who unsuccessfully contested for the top FIFA job against Sepp Blatter earlier in the year, said.
Since then, Blatter has resigned following investigation by Swiss and American authorities in a corruption scandal that rocked the sport.
Ali called upon the 200-odd member nations of the FIFA to vote "individually" based on "principles" and not en bloc in the elections which he termed as open and crucial for FIFA to salvage its reputation.
"This election is about every single national association and not the confederations elections. This election is a matter of belief.
"Those who want to move forward and those who don't want and I want to move forward," he said.
"My nominations came from Asia and I respect everybody's position. Having said that every country has the right to vote for who they think is the right person for this job. I am against this idea of trying to make blocs. It is a matter of principle in the mind and bringing a new fresh way of dealing with things."
He also hoped that there would be transparency in the election process to choose the FIFA president in an extraordinary Congress on February 26 next year.
"I believe that worldwide a bit of shadow has been lifted. I believe it as an open election. I think the ethics committee and the electoral committee do things in a proper way and guarantee that there is no interference by confederations and by FIFA itself. Then I believe I will win this election," he said.
"It should be and it better be. We have one chance now," he added when asked if there would be transparency in the elections.
Ali said he will not pull out of the elections in any case.
"I am not going to speculate how many candidates out of five will remain. I am focussed on myself right now. I will go through believe me there is no chance of backing out.
"Those who believe in future not in past practices I believe support from Asian countries also."
Asked about India's possibility of backing Shiekh Salman for the FIFA presidential elections, Ali said, "I will be speaking to Mr Praful Patel (AIFF chief) obviously and I have a very good relation with him. It is a critical time worldwide. I think India in particular with its demography and who you are is so crucial and so important that it should be making a stand because this election is not just about a simple vote but about the football fans around the word. You have got to take a stand."
Asked about India currently having two leagues -- I-League and Indian Super League, he said, "I think the national association has better knowledge of the situation at the ground. We have to have regional offices to know what is going on. My emphasis is if people are satisfied that the players are having the best opportunity then we go for it.
"I think you (India) are making a lot of progresses. I had a lot of interactions. I have a foundation which supports the grassroots, one in Magic Bus and another in social responsibility, I think I will encourage much more in grassroots development and social responsibility. You have to focus in your kids, boys and girls. I would like to re-invest as much FIFA's money back to that."
Ali felt FIFA needs radical changes in its governance and he said transparency and development of the sport at the grassroots will be his top priority if elected.
"There is a loss faith on FIFA now from among the football fans and fraternity. We have to bring that faith back. We have to be open, unlock the doors, open the windows, nothing to hide and that is the way ahead. We have to change the way FIFA has been running as a governing body. People are demanding what is going on in FIFA. We have to put players and fans on top of pyramid and not the other way round. It will go in a good direction," he said.
He said he was not made for doing "deals" and would speak for what he believed was right or wrong in the world of football.
"I am not a politician, I do this for the love of sport. Look I am not going to talk about others. I have my ideals, I have my manifestos and people are convinced that, that is the right way to go forward.
"But the time of making deals is not for me and I have said from the time I ran against Blatter and I made my statement again with Platini. I am a straight person and I think internationally that needs to be the case."
Ali favours a two-term tenure limit for FIFA president at one go but said age limit should not be a part of the constitution.
"Tenure limits I believe is very important especially for the FIFA President. At the end of the day you are responsible to 209 member countries and you have to have the energy to do it. National associations may be a bit different.
"I think two terms is enough. After that he can come later after four years (cooling off period) and it's no problem. Give opportunity to others, different continents and different areas.
"Regarding age limits, I don't believe in that as that is a form of discrimination. As long as your health is capable of doing the job then you can go on. But term limit for sure."
He refused to make any further comments on the issues relating to Platini being handed suspension by the FIFA Ethics Committee for allegedly accepting USD 2 million from Blatter for past services and rather appeared to struck a conciliatory tone.
"I am not going to comment on anything that has to do with ethics. I think that process is going on. Regarding Michel Platini he is a legend and he was a legend on the pitch and what I said was based on my belief and I think we need to move on and we need to a fresh face for FIFA chief. We have to put the past behind us and that is the demand the world over and I want to make sure it happens if I am elected. We should not be held hostage to the past," he said.
Ali has recently said that Platini was not good for FIFA if he stands for presidency.
Asked about the likely split of votes of Asian countries between him and Sheikh Salman, he said, "That (Sheikh Salman standing elections) is democracy. He has all the rights to do what he wants to but I am focussed. I am the first may be to challenge the status quo that was in FIFA and I want to continue and finish off this journey. I want to be the representative of all of us.
"I would be honoured to represent Asia (as president). In terms of credibility and work done, definitely I believe I am the candidate for Asia. I want to bring the best principles we have to the world and I want the world to embrace them also."
"It (likely split of votes of Asian countries) is a matter of moral view. Europe has two candidates, so what. But I think the most important thing is about future. It is about breaking down boundaries and it is about bringing people together. About unifying opposition for FIFA, for the future, for development and believe me if I become president I will do all I can to guarantee to not only make promises during elections but after election also and make sure that we have the best potential to move forward."