FAS or Fifa: Lim Kia Tong's conundrum

He may be forced to choose between running for FAS presidency and retaining his Fifa position

MANY HATS: Lim Kia Tong is the deputy head of Fifa's disciplinary committee and also a FAS vice president.

The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) has yet to amend its constitution to allow for a full election of its council members, and it has not even revealed the timeline for what would be the first time that the football fraternity chooses its own leaders.

But even before the wheels of change have been set in motion, FAS vice-president Lim Kia Tong - who has been bandied about as a natural successor to president Zainudin Nordin - may find himself with a big choice to make.

Lim, a 64-year-old lawyer, is into the third of a four-year term as the deputy chairman of Fifa's disciplinary committee (DC), and may be forced to step down if he decides to run for the FAS presidency because of a clause in Fifa's Governance Regulations.

Article 5.1 of the regulations states that in order to be considered independent, as required for certain positions (for example as members of the judicial bodies), a candidate or a holder of such position may not, among others, hold an official function in a confederation or a member association during the four years preceding the initial term.

While Lim has yet to officially announce his candidacy for the FAS presidency, this rule - while not precluding him from running for the position - could affect his deputy chairmanship of Fifa's DC because of the independence required of the role.

INDEPENDENCE

Article 38.4 states that "the incumbent chairpersons, deputy chairpersons and members of the Disciplinary Committee, of each of the two chambers of the Ethics Committee and of the Appeal Committee shall, at least annually and prior to re-election or extension of the mandate, be subject to independence reviews."

While Fifa confirmed the rules are in force, it declined to elaborate.

"We are not in a position to speculate on potential scenarios concerning individuals," said a Fifa spokesman in response to queries from The New Paper.

Lim, however, has been involved in football in an official capacity since 1999 when he became an FAS council member, before stepping up to become its vice-president in 2007.

He is also highly respected in international football circles, having been a member of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) legal committee from 2003 to 2006 and its DC from 2007 to 2011.

He has been the AFC DC's chairman since March 2011 and will continue at least until July 2019.

Lim became the first Singaporean to assume a leadership role on a Fifa committee when he was elected its DC's deputy chairman at the Fifa Congress in May 2013.

Fifa did not answer questions on whether there was special dispensation given to Lim, who has already proven his independence in other matters.

In 2012, the AFC DC headed by Lim extended the provisional suspension of Mohamed Hammam, the then AFC president, who was one of the key men who appointed Lim to his position.

Fifa has other rules in place to preserve the independence of its judicial bodies, and it remains unclear if the requirement of not holding "official function" in a confederation of member association will serve as the primary rule.

Article 52(5) of the Fifa Statutes says that the chairperson, deputy chairperson and other members "shall not be members of any other Fifa body", while Article 87 of its Disciplinary Code states that "members of the judicial bodies of Fifa must decline to participate in any meeting concerning a matter where there are serious grounds for questioning their impartiality", including those where the member is from the same nationality as the party implicated.

Lim had told TNP earlier that he was "honoured and humbled by the speculation" of him running for president, but he remained focused on his primary task in the FAS - amending its constitution.  

His stance has not changed.

PRIORITY

"The possible issue of my tenure as the deputy chairman of the Fifa disciplinary committee is purely hypothetical at the moment," he said.

"My immediate priority now is to serve the best interests of Singapore football and also to be a responsible member of the world's footballing community. The amendment of the FAS Constitution is indeed such priority."

Only one group - put together by R Vengadasalam, a former team manager of now-defunct S.League side Woodlands Wellington - has declared its interest in running at the FAS election when it happens.

Vengadasalam has yet to announce the names of candidates he is putting forward.

My immediate priority now is to serve the best interests of Singapore football and also to be a responsible member of the world’s footballing community. The amendment of the FAS Constitution is indeed such priority.

— FAS vice-president Lim Kia Tong

It is necessary to take the time to engage the key stakeholders involved — including local stakeholders, Fifa and AFC — and we are leaving no stone unturned in this rigorous process.

— FAS spokesman on the constitutional amendment

Tags: FAS and Fifa

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SECOND ROUND

BURTON ALBION 0

LIVERPOOL 5

(Divock Origi 15, Roberto Firmino 22, Tom Naylor 61-og, Daniel Sturridge 78, 83)

At the post-match press conference, Juergen Klopp resembled an over-protective father trying to shield his child prodigy from premature spotlight.

"I really like this player, but I don't like to talk too much after only two games for him," said the German, after watching his £30-million ($53.8m) summer arrival Sadio Mane produce a Man-of-the-Match performance yesterday morning (Singapore time) to inspire Liverpool to a 5-0 away win over Burton Albion in the second round of the League Cup.

"It's not that we have to pat ourselves on the back every day at signing him. We have to try and improve.

"There is nothing else to say about this at the moment."


Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp.

The Reds boss was clearly trying to manage the growing expectations after the 24-year-old Mane inspired them to the third round, but his efforts would prove futile.

PRAISES

He was ultimately unable to control the wave of plaudits for the Senegal international on social media where, just three matches into the new season, some are already hailing him as Liverpool's best player.

During this short period, Mane has dramatically transformed from a dodgy signing to a potential game-changer.


Sadio Mane. PHOTO: AFP

The initial scepticism came from fear, a by-product of recent high-profile transfer market failures.

Liverpool's other two £30m men turned out to be spectacular flops.

Striker Andy Carroll, signed for £35m in 2011, was a waste of money. Christian Benteke, who cost £32.5m last year, turned out to be a square peg trying to squirm into a round hole.

And then there was also the country of Mane's origin, which triggered a deluge of painful memories for Liverpool supporters.

The last time the club ventured to Senegal to scout for gems, they brought back serial-spitter El Hadji Diouf and a wooden midfield puppet in Salif Diao.

But Mane is clearly a class apart from his fellow countrymen.

At the Pirelli Stadium yesterday morning, Klopp made four changes to the side that surprisingly lost 2-0 to Burnley in a Premier League encounter last Saturday, and Mane was the one who reminded everyone what the team were missing.

From the right side of Liverpool's attacking midfield three, he provided the natural width and pace that Adam Lallana could not offer last season.

The spontaneity and speed of Mane's footwork in the penalty box, and the panache and technique to weave in and out of tight spaces, clearly added a lethal dimension to his side's attacking game.

Add to those qualities his hunger and willingness to close down opponents high up the field, and he looks a natural fit in Klopp's high-octane pressing game.

Arsenal legend Thierry Henry expects great things to come from the former Southampton player.

Asked recently who he thought could be the most exciting player in the Premiership this term, he said: "There's the usual suspects like Zlatan (Ibrahimovic) and (Paul) Pogba.

"But the outsider for me who I think will have a good season is Sadio Mane at Liverpool.

"I want to see how he is going to do and with the way Liverpool play I think he could have a very good season and be a crowd favourite."

If there is a chink in Mane's armour, it is his tendency to blow hot and cold, as former Saints manager Ronald Koeman once pointed out.

Inconsistency was Liverpool's weakness, too, throughout their 2015/16 campaign, and the early indications of this campaign suggested that Klopp may have some work yet to do in this respect.

Mane, though, wasted no time to show what he's capable of against Burton Albion yesterday morning.

He played a part in three of Liverpool's five goals.

He raced to the byeline to cross for Divock Origi to score an early opening goal, then set Nathaniel Clyne free on the right flank for him to send in the cross for Roberto Firmino to nod in the second.

An own goal after the break and a typical poacher's goal by Daniel Sturridge made it 4-0, before Mane supplied the final pass for Sturridge in the 83rd minute to complete the rout.

Mane might have looked every bit the flat track bully against inferior opposition, but his scintillating display in the 4-3 victory over Arsenal in Liverpool's opening Premiership game suggested there is also a big-game temperament in those lightning-quick feet.

"If he was to do that every single week, then come next summer, he would be playing for one of the big boys in Spain," said Southampton great Matthew Le Tissier, of his performance against the Gunners.

It's early days yet, but Liverpool's No. 19 is certainly well on track to become the next Kop hit.

It’s not that we have to pat ourselves on the back every day at signing him.

— Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp on Sadio Mane

Tags: epl, Football and Liverpool

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