Gulf nations want Australia out of Asia: AFC chief
Asia`s football chief has admitted there is groundswell of opinion in the west of the continent that Australia`s membership of the confederation has not worked out and they should be kicked out.
Sydney: Asia`s football chief has admitted there is groundswell of opinion in the west of the continent that Australia`s membership of the confederation has not worked out and they should be kicked out.
Australia will play South Korea for the Asian Cup on Saturday after what is widely regarded as a successful hosting of the tournament, the second time they have reached the final in three attempts since they switched from Oceania in 2006.
Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa said in an interview with Dubai newspaper Al-Ittihad that there was a desire by Gulf Arab federations to review Australia`s membership.
"Yes, it is true, there are indications that confirm that there is a desire among West Asian federations to remove Australia from the AFC," he told the paper on Wednesday.
"But I also know that the Arabs are not the only ones that are not convinced with the value of Australia staying within the Asian football family."
Critics of Australia`s move to Asia, which they undertook to seeking more competitive football and an easier route to the World Cup finals, say the benefits have been all one way.
The Socceroos have reached the last two World Cup finals through Asian qualifying, while the Arabian Gulf, which had one team in soccer`s showpiece event from 1990 to 2006, was not represented in South Africa or Brazil.
Qatar host the World Cup in 2022 and if they cannot qualify for Russia in 2018 would become the first host nation since the earliest days of the tournament never to have competed in a finals before welcoming it to their own shores.
Asia has four qualifying spots for the World Cup with a fifth country getting a shot at the finals through an intercontinental playoff.
Bahraini Al-Khalifa, who took over the AFC in 2013, said no mechanism had been put in place to review Australia`s membership when it was agreed in 2005.
"The decision to include Australia was taken many years ago, before I became head of the AFC and at the time," he added.
"The decision by the general assembly did not stipulate that this was an experiment that would be evaluated to see whether Australia would continue with the AFC.
"There are several Asian federations that see that it is necessary for Australia to leave the AFC, and for the AFC to cut all ties with Australia, but we can`t just base any decision on opinions.
"Any decision about Australia`s membership will have to come from the general assembly."