Asian football execs face key leadership decision
Seoul (South Korea): A week that started
with Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed Bin Hammam
refusing to resign despite receiving a life ban from FIFA
could end with the continental executive making steps toward
calling an election to choose his successor.
Bin Hammam wrote to the confederation`s 46 member
associations on Monday to seek understanding, patience and
support as he prepares to appeal against last weekend`s
decision from FIFA`s ethics committee to ban him for life on
charges of bribery during his election campaign against Sepp
Blatter for the presidency of football`s world governing body.
AFC statutes indicate that the office of president can be
vacant for one year before a congress must be held to resolve
The next ordinary AFC Congress will be held in 2013. An
extraordinary congress can be convened at any time, however,
if one-third of member associations or the executive committee
calls for it.
With the 23-member executive committee meeting Friday in
Kuala Lumpur, the prospect of an extraordinary congress is a
growing possibility as pressure builds for a quick resolution
with Asian football facing a number of issues, not least
FIFA vice president Prince Ali Al Hussein of Jordan, who
defeated Bin Hammam`s close ally Chung Mong-joon at January`s
AFC Congress for a seat on the FIFA executive committee, does
not want the AFC presidency to remain unresolved for long.
"Mr. Bin Hammam has the right to appeal and that is his
own personal decision and we respect that," Prince Ali told
The Associated Press in an email.
"However, it would be unacceptable for anyone to try and
drag AFC and Asian football into any process through
irresponsible action. I certainly will not accept that."
Japan Football Association president, and former FIFA
Executive Committee member, Junji Ogura echoed Prince Ali`s
call, saying that Bin Hammam "has been banned for life so I
think an election needs to be held."
"He doesn`t think he has done anything wrong and said he
has no intention of quitting as AFC President and FIFA
executive," Ogura told reporters this week in Tokyo.
These have been rare statements from senior Asian
football figures with the confederation remaining even more
tightlipped than usual and most national associations
reluctant to comment while bin Hammam`s status remains
Acting AFC president Zhang Jilong declined an interview
for this story and previous requests from The AP in his native
China and at AFC headquarters.
An advisory issued Wednesday by the AFC warned
journalists that AFC House would be off limits for media on
Friday and that any outcomes of the executive committee would
be released in a statement only, meaning no news conference
and no other comment from the executive or bureaucracy.
Bin Hammam has been more forthcoming on his personal blog
and Twitter, though his personal page on the AFC`s official
site has been removed. On his personal website he displayed
the letter, on AFC-headed paper, which he sent to all
"I have all the right to fight against this shameful
decision until I clear my name," he wrote. "It may take some
time before I go through the appeal committee of FIFA and the
Court of Sports Arbitration (CAS) and possible other
"That means I will not render my resignation as AFC
President and FIFA member representing Asia as far as the
legal proceedings are continuing. I am appealing for your
understanding and appreciation for my cause and reasons and
looking for your support to me until I prove my innocence."
Zhang said in a statement released last weekend that bin
Hammam`s suspension was a "sad day for the AFC and Asian
"AFC respects FIFA`s decision and we also acknowledge
former AFC president Mohamed bin Hammam`s inalienable right to
lodge an appeal against the decision. AFC has nothing more to
say on this particular issue."
As acting president, Zhang would be a formidable opponent
in any AFC election although, like other possible candidates,
he is yet to publicly discuss the issue.
Prince Ali told the AP that he was not going to put his
name forward for the AFC presidency and refused to speculate
on likely contenders.
But he said the president should be somebody who "runs on
a clear platform, who explains himself and his vision and
presents a program on how he sees the future of AFC, rather
than running on a political platform or based on geography."
But the key to success in Asia often lies in shoring up
While East Asia has dominated on the field in recent
years Japan won the 2011 Asian Cup and, along with South
Korea, made the second round of the 2010 World Cup and clubs
from those two nations have won the last five Asian Champions
League titles the western side of the continent has wielded
more power off the pitch due to political maneuvering and an
ability to present an apparently more united front.
It is far from certain that the east can unite behind
Zhang or a possible challenge from Japanese committee member
Kohzo Tashima. Sources close to South Korea`s Chung, the
highest-profile figure in Asian football politics after Bin
Hammam, say he hasn`t made a decision on whether to run for
the AFC presidency but he has been reported to be more
interested in national politics and his country`s presidency.
If the west Asia members can get behind one candidate
then that could be enough to win a majority of the 46 votes
AFC vice president Yousuf Yaqoob Yousuf Al Serkal of the
United Arab Emirates is a possibility, as is the president of
Bahrain`s Football Association Sheik Salman bin Ebrahim Al
Salman challenged Bin Hammam for his seat on FIFA`s
Executive Committee in May 2009 and after a bitter election
only lost by 23 votes to 21.
AFC vice president Prince Abdullah Ibni Sultan Ahmad Shah
of Malaysia could find support as a compromise candidate
between the two edges of the continent.