KUALA LUMPUR: Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah has been awarded the prestigious AFC Diamond of Asia in recognition of his contributions spanning more than three decades to the game in the continent.
The Asian football’s highest individual accolade was presented to the Malaysian king by AFC president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa at Istana Negara here today.
Al-Sultan Abdullah is the 15th recipient of the award, and joins his late father Sultan Ahmad Shah Al-Musta’in Billah, the 2011 recipient, as the only father and son duo to be bestowed the accolade in Asian football history.
In a statement, AFC, or Asian Football Confederation, noted that Al-Sultan Abdullah developed an interest in football at a young age and his impact has been instrumental in raising the standards of the game in Asia.
“Football has been in my blood since I was a child and it is such a privilege to be part of a distinguished list of recipients that include some of the greatest personalities and legends in Asian football,“ His Majesty was quoted as saying in the statement.
In paying tribute to his late father, Al-Sultan Abdullah said he is happy to be able to honour his father’s legacy as he had contributed immensely to football in Malaysia and Asia.
“He is my source of inspiration and it is to him that I dedicate this award,“ said Al-Sultan Abdullah, who also paid tribute to colleagues who devoted their time and wise counsel through the years and brought Asian football to where it is today.
“We have made enormous strides in recent years and I’m confident that the AFC will continue to spread the joys of the game, unite and rally diverse communities and build on its strong foundations to usher greater success in the years to come,“ His Majesty said.
Credited as one of the most progressive voices in Malaysian and Asian football, AFC said, His Majesty was steadfast in upholding the integrity of the game and laid down the foundation in the fight against match manipulation during his earlier tenure in 1994 as Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) deputy president.
His Majesty continued to serve FAM as vice-president to 2007 and again, from 2010 to 2014, before holding the post of president in 2014, where he introduced a comprehensive range of programmes to boost and develop the sport in the country.
Elected as AFC vice-president in 2002, His Majesty dedicated almost 20 years of distinguished service in several key positions including chairman of the Organising Committee for the highly successful AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015, chairman of the AFC Technical Committee as well as the AFC Development Committee.
Widely regarded as a guiding light not only for Asian football but also for his contributions to world football, he was elected to the FIFA Council in 2015 where he served until 2019.
The statement also alluded to his service as a member of the FIFA Technical Committee in 1995, FIFA Youth Committee and the Organising Committee of the FIFA Confederations Cup in France in 2003.
Shaikh Salman said: “We have been enriched and inspired by His Majesty’s dedicated service and we are extremely proud to be honouring him today.” - Bernama