The recent election of former soccer player Ahmed Eid al-Harbi as the first freely chosen head of the Saudi Football Federation is an “achievement and an example to other Gulf states,” said Sepp Blatter, president of the FIFA football association.
“It’s a wonderful example, how democracy can work in a kingdom,” Blatter added, praising cooperation between FIFA, the SFF and Prince Nawaf bin Feisal, president of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee.
The election of Harbi means the SFF is “proud to start a new successful year,” said Blatter. “We’re happy that we were part of the solution. What FIFA does is bring people together.”
FIFA sent installations to Gaza to repair a playing field that was destroyed by Israeli forces in November, he said, adding: “This is what football is about, hope. Saudi Arabia gave [FIFA] help to build a new, small stadium in Gaza."
Blatter expressed pleasure over the recent U.N. recognition of Palestine, but said FIFA recognized the Arab state 14 years ago.
"FIFA was faster than the United Nations," he said, adding that “football is stronger than politics.”