KUANTAN: The name of the late Sultan Ahmad Shah Al-Musta’in Billah Almarhum Sultan Abu Bakar is synonymous with football as his deep interest in the game resulted in him devoting himself tirelessly to the development of national football.
After becoming the president of the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) on Aug 12, 1984, he unflaggingly strove to develop the sport of football including when the national football squad was beset with brickbats.
In fact, his dedication to the national parent body enabled him to retain the post uncontested several times including for the 2001-2003, 2007-2010 and 2010-2014 terms.
As the number one individual in FAM, the late Sultan Ahmad Shah was always optimistic that the “Harimau Malaya” squad could resharpen its fangs on the international platform despite the bitterness of being on the 159th rung in the world football ranking in 2013.
He stood firm behind the national football squad and advised the people not to despair, while stakeholders were reminded to seek a formula to ensure its ranking would not continue to experience a drastic slide.
The reputation of the late Sultan Ahmad Shah as FAM president was marred somewhat when a group of “Harimau Malaya” squad supporters urged him to step down and make way for new faces who were seen as having more fresh ideas.
The pressure grew stronger when Malaysia lost in 2013, following the defeat of the national football squad at the AFF Suzuki Cup, but he stayed calm and stressed that he would not step down as long as his service was needed.
The pressure escalated at the selection in conjunction with the 50th FAM Congress for the 2014-2018 term and speculations continued to be rife whether he would continue to head the parent body or let go of the post.
His gentlemanly attitude was revealed when he openly lauded challenges to his leadership including when his son Tengku Abdullah (now Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah) had the support of FAM coalition members for nomination as president.
However, his fatherly love was apparent when he decided not to contest and Al-Sultan Abdullah was picked to continue his father’s struggle when he obtained the majority two-thirds votes beating the Tengku Mahkota of Johor Tengku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim.
Sultan Ahmad Shah also served at the international level and was the seventh president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) from May 13, 1994 to March 10, 2002.
Under his administration, Asia succeeded in hosting the FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) World Cup in Japan and South Korea in 2002, which was historic, as, for the first time, the organisation of the number one football competition was jointly conducted by two countries.
In addition, he was selected as the Asean Football Federation (AFF) president on April 10, 2011, and he used the capacity fully to firm up ties among the nations in the region through football.
In recognition of his contribution in boosting the sport to a higher level, Sultan Ahmad Shah received the Asean Goodwill Award which was held for the first time on April 4, 2013.
His humanitarian and generous attitudes were also put together in the sport with the establishment of the Asean Football Federation Council to raise AS$100,000 for the victims of the Typhoon Bopha which struck islands in Mindanao, Philippines in 2012.
He was conferred numerous accolades including the AFC Diamond of Asia Award in Nov 23, 2011 which is given to individuals who contributed towards the development of football on the Asian continent.
His involvement also received the attention of FIFA, receiving the prestigious award FIFA - Order of Merit - on the opening day of the 62nd Congress of the international football body in Budapest, Hungary in 2012. — Bernama