Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah receiving the Diamond of Asia 2019 award from AFC president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa at Istana Negara. -- Pix courtesy of Istana Negara

KUALA LUMPUR: Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah has dedicated to his late father Almarhum Sultan Ahmad Shah Al-Musta'in Billah the prestigious Diamond of Asia 2019 award.

The award was bestowed on him by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in recognition of His Majesty's contributions spanning more than three decades to football in the continent.

In his pre-recorded acceptance speech broadcasted at the AFC Annual Awards Hong Kong 2019 ceremony at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on Monday night, Al-Sultan Abdullah said he was grateful 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," he was quoted as saying in a statement issued by Istana Negara today.

His Majesty also paid tribute to colleagues who devoted their time and wise counsel through the years that brought Asian football to where it is today.

Al-Sultan Abdullah is the 15th recipient of the award, and joins his late father, the 2011 recipient, as the only father and son duo to be bestowed the highest individual accolade in Asian football history.

The award was presented in advance to His Majesty by AFC president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa in a special ceremony at Istana Negara here on Nov 7.

In his speech, His Majesty also said football had been in his blood since he was a child and he was honoured to be part of a distinguished list of recipients that included some of the greatest personalities and legends in Asian football.

"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," the King said.

Credited as one of the most progressive voices in Malaysian and Asian football, Al-Sultan Abdullah 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 also chaired the AFC Governance Task Force which was responsible for delivering important reforms to help the AFC achieve its Vision and Mission objectives while ensuring the highest standards of professionalism and good governance at the Confederation.

He continued to serve FAM as vice-president until 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.

His Majesty also served 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.

Comptroller of the Royal Household for Istana Negara, Datuk Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin, noted that Al-Sultan Abdullah was not able to attend the ceremony as he was on a four-day private visit to Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which ended Monday.

Ahmad Fadil said the visit was on a personal invite of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed Zayed Al Nahyan in conjunction with the Formula One (F1) Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2019.

He said Al-Sultan Abdullah and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Hajah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah arrived home at about 12.30 pm today. -- Bernama