New Asia Rugby president Qais Al Dhalai has vowed to help the sport “flourish” after a first-ever Rugby World Cup was staged on the continent.
Al Dhalai won the right to become the new president on Sunday after a meeting of the Asia Rugby Executive Committee (EXCO) in Bali. He succeeds India’s Aga Hussain, who Al Dhalai lost to in a closely fought November 2017 campaign.
“I look forward to continuing the good work and seeing rugby in Asia flourish, after a successful World Cup,” Al Dhalai told Sport360.
Al Dhalai, the UAE Rugby Federation’s secretary general since 2012, becomes president at an opportune time. But also one in which there is plenty to do with the Olympic Games in Tokyo less than a year away.
“Next year is the Olympics in Tokyo and rugby is a core sport,” added Al Dhalai, who has identified promoting rugby via free-to-air televised matches and lobbying World Rugby for at least two automatic spots for Asian nations at the 2023 World Cup in his manifesto.
After losing out two years ago to Hussain, head of India Rugby, Al Dhalai admitted he had been “more determined” to ascend to the presidency this time around.
“It is a really amazing feeling,” he said.
“I was more determined after this. I did not give up. I’m a dedicated person and when I want something I run after it, I don’t let go.
“If it was someone else maybe they would have not gone after it again. But I told myself in November 2017 I would do it again and not give up.”
Two years ago, outgoing president Koji Tokumasu, of Japan, had to cast the deciding vote after two rounds were deadlocked at 13 votes apiece for Al Dhalai and Hussain. Tokumasu chose Hussain, leading Al Dhalai to lament “a clear disparity between west and east in Asia”.
Al Dhalai, who has been involved with the UAE RF since it was founded in 2009, joined Asia Rugby a year later and was voted in as an executive committee member in 2013, serving as secretary general until 2017 when the position was dissolved in favour of electing two vice presidents.
“I built my experience,” he said.
“You know, I stood in 2017 and it was tied twice, 13-13. The incumbent president cast the deciding vote for my opponent and now, this time, I made it so it’s a great feeling for me to be leading the regional association, which is the biggest in the world in terms of population and growth.
“I’m really proud. It’s good for me and the country, it’s a big achievement and it’s come after lots of hard work and trips to – and trust with – other countries.
“I’ve been here for nine years and I think we have a good team now to lead Asia Rugby into the future.”
Pakistan’s Fawzi Khawaja was re-elected as vice president alongside Velayuthan Tan, of Malaysia, who succeeds Japan’s Yuichi Ueno.
Hong Kong’s Mike Haines was re-elected as treasurer, while Terence Khoo (Singapore) replaces Trevor Gregory (Hong Kong) as Asia Rugby’s representative on World Rugby’s council.
Gondo Radityo Gambiro (Indonesia) and Tanka Lal Ghising (Nepal) succeed Velayuthan Tan and Sung Soo-yoon (South Korea) as executive committee members.