Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President, congratulated the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association (NMIFA) on becoming the 47th full Member Association of the AFC at the 30th AFC Congress today.
The online Congress, which observed a minutes’ silence of respect for Diego Armando Maradona and the legends of Asian football who have passed in the last year, approved the application of the NMIFA, which has been an Associate Member of the AFC since July 2009.
Shaikh Salman said: “We are proud to welcome the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association as the newest ordinary member of the AFC family. Under the leadership of NMIFA President Jerry Tan, I have no doubts that the game will continue to scale greater heights.”
Addressing the Congress, attended by FIFA President Gianni Infantino, Shaikh Salman praised the Asian football family for the way that they have faced the most challenging situations in ‘a year like no other’ in AFC history.
He once again identified the unity and solidarity of the AFC which has led to the most solid of foundations in the last seven years and it was that strong footing that has allowed the Confederation to rise together in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The AFC President said: “Throughout these unprecedented and uncertain times we have maintained our focus and we have maintained our belief. Yes, there have been challenges. The AFC was the first Confederation to postpone its matches in the face of the pandemic, but we showed strong leadership and also a recognition of what was important in life.
“Tough decisions had to be made. It is never easy postponing any events, but we have come through stronger as we were able to draw on the solidarity and unity that Asian football is famous for.
“In June, the FIFA Council awarded the joint bid – a historic bid – by Australia and New Zealand the right to stage the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023. It was a cross Confederation bid with a single purpose to stage the greatest FIFA Women’s World Cup in history.”
Shaikh Salman also praised the sporting integrity of the Japan Football Association by withdrawing their bid and the AFC President added he was delighted that now Japan would be hosting the FIFA Club World Cup 2021.
He also thanked the Qatar Football Association and the Qatari Authorities, particularly the medical professionals, for working closely with the AFC to implement the new COVID-19 health protocols which allowed the AFC Champions League to be played in Doha. The final is on December 19, 2020.
The AFC President added: “It was important to put Asian football back on the field for the MAs, teams, players, fans, officials and commercial and broadcast partners. We could not have achieved so much without your support.”
While cautiously optimistic about the future, Shaikh Salman emphasised: “There are difficult decisions still to be made. There is still so much of financial instability due to COVID-19 and we are working hard to ensure that the AFC’s finances are secured to fulfil our vision for the game in Asia.
“Of course, it has affected our stakeholders, our sponsors and media partners but we thank them for having faith in the AFC and their continued support for the game in Asia.
“Good governance, prudent financial management, as seen in our accounts and budgets, as well as our stronger unity will see us through to a brighter and better 2021.”
The Congress approved the audited accounts for 2019, as well as the AFC revised budget for 2020. The Congress also passed amendments to the AFC Statutes in line with the Confederation’s determination to display the greatest level of Governance and Integrity.
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