by George Das of Asian Football Watch
KUALA LUMPUR, TUES. – The continued in-fighting within the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) could result in the suspension of the world’s second largest confederation.
Dato’ Peter Velappan warned that FIFA, the world football controlling body, may even withhold recognition of a split AFC.
Painting out the worst-case scenario ahead of Friday’s AFC Congress in Kuala Lumpur, Velappan, the longest-serving AFC former general secretary (1978-2007), said the consequences of the prolonged disunity among the 46 member associations can have unprecedented repercussions.
“If Friday’s AFC Congress gets out of hand, there could be a split right down the middle especially if the AFC president (Mohamed bin Hammam) puts his foot down and not allow at least five associations to vote,” he said.
On Friday, Hamman takes on Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifah, the president of the Bahrain Football Association, in a straight fight for the post of FIFA Executive Member (West Asia).
Four of the associations - Laos, East Timor, Afghanistan and Mongolia - were told by the AFC they could not vote because they had not participated in at least three Asian competitions in the past two years. FIFA firmly ruled the contrary, and made it clear that under-13 and under-14 competitions must also be considered.
Kuwait were informed by the AFC that it did not recognise the temporary committee that is currently running its football affairs. FIFA clarified that the KFA was recognised by FIFA after a suspension it was under for political interference was provisionally lifted, so Kuwait had full voting rights.
Velappan warned: “The five countries barred from voting could immediately resign and if a number of other countries follow suit, disgusted by Hammam’s dictatorial style of leadership, we may have a major AFC split.
“Among the consequences, FIFA could suspend recognition of the AFC and call on the Asian associations to convene an extraordinary meeting to elect a new confederation.”
Much as this is unprecedented since AFC’s formation in 1954, the current turmoil has provoked mammoth unhappiness and the possibility of a monstrous anti-climax where the “future of Asian football, democracy and freedom of speech” could be at stake.
Hamman’s blatant refusal to follow the FIFA ruling, prompted Velappan to remark that the Qatari was arrogantly behaving like an “Emperor of Asia” with his indifferent set of rules.
“My heart cries after spending more than 30 years of my life to build the AFC,” said Velappan, wherein he attributed the sudden crisis in the Asian football family to the “greed and ambition of
one man” who is in a “hurry to rewrite a new history of Asian football”.
Velappan repeatedly called for “Fair Play” and urged Hammam to respect the “most sacred document” which is the FIFA Statutes.
“He has completely ignored FIFA's opinion in recent weeks as far as the FIFA Statutes are concerned and that should never be tolerated. It is a clear indication of the serious and problematic situation that awaits us,” he said.
But Hammam, the Qatari businessman who became AFC president in 2002, is desperate for victory as he sees the polls as an acid test of the overall confidence in his leadership.
And to raise the stakes, he has vowed to end his six-year reign as the AFC supremo if defeated in Friday’s Congress election, which coincides with his 60th birthday.
In another press conference, AFC Finance Committee member Richard Lai of Guam questioned the disproportionate allocation of funds, especially for grassroots football development.
In the US $150 million rise from $92m (2005-2008 budget) to $242m (2009-2012), which he described as the “biggest budget increase in AFC history”, he moaned that majority of the subsidies were for the bigger Asian tournaments, leaving only the scraps for the lesser-known age-group competitions.
Over the next four years, if there’s a fair distribution of the $242m budget, each of the 46 countries should get $5.26m.
“I hope Friday’s Congress will be a wake-up call for the leaders to spend proportionately for grassroots football in accordance with the AFC promise that ‘The Future is Asia’,” he said.
May 5th, 2009
Released on behalf of Asian Football Watch. For further information please contact GEORGE DAS via email: firstname.lastname@example.org