Apr 30, 2009


Against a backdrop of controversies and intense politicking, FIFA and Asian Football Confederation executive committee member Junji Ogura called on all Member Associations and the authorities concerned to convene the May 8th AFC Congress in Kuala Lumpur in accordance with the decisions of FIFA.

In a faxed statement to members, AFC executive Committee, presidents and general secretaries of Member Associations, Ogura of Japan reiterated the stand of FIFA Legal Affairs Department on three issues that had become a major source of discontentment within certain quarters of the Asian body.

The three are – the voting rights of five associations in relation to participation in competitions, voting rights of Kuwait Football Association, and the legality of the AFC legal ad-hoc committee as a decision-making unit.

“On the question of competitions, FIFA has verified that the Under-13, Under-14, and the World Cup qualifiers are considered Confederations competitions,” said Ogura.

On the issue of KFA’s eligibility to vote, FIFA had cleared them, as the interim body – in this case the Normalisation Committee –was formed by the world body and AFC, and was therefore allowed to vote in the coming Congress.

“And as for the AFC legal ad-hoc committee, FIFA had said that the committee had no power to make any binding decisions, and that the Congress is the supreme body to decide on voting rights.”

The AFC legal ad-hoc committee had decided that five nations – Brunei, Laos, Mongolia, Timor Lester, and Afghanistan – couldn’t vote for not participating in at least three competitions from 200-2009, while Kuwait FA were ineligible by virtue of being run by an interim body.

Meanwhile three of the National associations affected expressed joy in being able to participate in the Congress with voting rights.

“It is with pleasure to know about the FIFA’s legal opinion regarding the eligibility of Mongolia to vote in the AFC Congress,” said B. Ganbold, General Secretary of the Mongolian Football Federation.

“FIFA’s comments are absolutely fair that the AFC U13 and AFC U14 Festivals of Football as well as 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Preliminaries should be considered as AFC Competitions. Moreover, it is also correct to fix the reporting period as period from Congress to Congress.

“Therefore, I would like to emphasize that the above-said could serve as a strong ground for considering our participation in the AFC competitions to be good enough and that the decisions for application of Article 10.3.5 of the AFC Statutes is not applicable in our case.

“We believe that the AFC will take into consideration fair and objective clarification of FIFA and will find flexible approach to this issue and make the solution intended solely for the promotion of Asian football, not for imposing the sanction on member associations.”

Brunei were not as vocal as their Mongolian counterparts.

All I would like to say at this point is that, we are happy that we are able to vote,” said Brunei FA General Secretary Pengiran Mattussin
Laos Football Federation president Phouvanh Vongsouthi echoed the same sentiments.

“We are happy that the air has been cleared and that we can vote with a easy mind.”


The embattled President of the Asian Football Confederation, Mohamed bin Hammam, has defied FIFA and rejected their instruction to re-instate the voting rights of five countries who were banned from taking part in the May 8 AFC Congress.

The impending ban on the five nations – some of whom had given their allegiance to Hammam’s challenger for the FIFA seat Sheikh Salman Al-Khalifa -- was decided by AFC’s ad-hoc Legal Committee that was formed early this year.

The Legal Committee was one of three Standing Committees removed from the list at the 2007 AFC Congress. The others were Medical, and the Ethics & Fairplay Committees.

The AFC president’s defiance is reflected in the inclusion of this voting issue in the agenda for the May 7 AFC Executive Committee meeting.

Junji Ogura from Japan, a member of FIFA’s 23-man ruling committee said last night: “The AFC President completely ignores FIFA’s opinion and that should never be tolerated. He was even quoted in an Arabic newspaper to have said that while he would obey the rules of FIFA, he would not practise the FIFA’s legal opinion this time.”

Despite FIFA clearing the five nations – Afghanistan, Mongolia, Laos, Timor Leste, and Kuwait – to vote, Hammam has put up the voting issue for discussion and decision under Proposals and Matters for Decision in the agenda.

Item E.1 will be to decide on the eligibility of vote of Afghanistan, Laos, and Timor Leste. Item E.2 will determine the status of FIFA World Cup qualification matches, and E.3 will determine the status and recognition of the Kuwait Football Association.

While Afghanistan, Laos, Mongolia and Timor Leste face voting bans for not fulfilling the minimum requirement of participation in at least three tournaments in two years, Kuwait are expected to be shut out for being an interim body.

The ad-hoc Legal Committee, through video conferencing on April 7, concluded that the Festivals of Football Under-13 and Under-14, and the FIFA World Cup qualifiers do not constitute Confederation tournaments.

Laos, Timor Leste, and Afghanistan are contesting that the Festival of Football tournaments are valid, while Mongolia is fighting to validate the World Cup qualifying matches as Confederation tournaments.

On April 22, FIFA’s Legal Department verified all these tournaments as valid.

But FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valkcke in a letter to Ogura dated April 27 clearly stated that one, the ad-hoc Legal Committee has “no competence to take any decision with legal effect” and secondly it’s up to the AFC Congress to decide about voting rights of member associations.

“Neither the AFC Executive Committee nor any other AFC Committee has the power to decide about such issues,” re-iterated Valkcke.

“The Congress as the supreme authority of AFC (Art. 9.1 of the AFC Statutes) is the body to decide about voting rights.

Sheikh Salman, vice-chairman of FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee for the last six years, said: “This is symptomatic of how Mr. Bin Hammam seeks to dominate Asian football in his undemocratic way.

“Yet again he is using doubtful techniques to disrupt the AFC’s most important election in many years. He seems prepared to do anything to gain an advantage – instead of confronting his record in power.”

Apr 28, 2009

I'll beat Mohamed, says Sheikh Salman

The man challenging Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed Hammam believes his chances of winning a crucial vote next month have improved after weeks of mud-slinging.
Sheikh Salman Ibrahim Al Khalifa, the chairman of the Bahrain football association, said he was confident of taking Mohamed's Fifa executive committee seat, which is up for grabs at the AFC Congress on May 8.
If the Qatari loses that powerful position, he has said he will step down as AFC chief despite his term running until 2011."I am confident of my ability and my chances are better than my opponent in the battle for several reasons," Sheikh Salman said."I did not prevent any of the Asian members from voting, I did not create laws to try and prevent others who have the right to vote from doing so, I did not interfere in the affairs of others.

"So let us now focus on the battle and see what we can do for Asian football." Sheikh Salman's comments came after Fifa ruled on Friday that six Asian football associations had the right to vote at the AFC's Congress despite being informed that they did not meet the conditions to do so.The nations -- Kuwait, Brunei, Laos, East Timor, Mongolia, Afghanistan -- are all expected to back Sheikh Salman, with a two-thirds majority of the AFC's 46 members needed to win the Fifa seat.In the cases of Brunei, Laos, East Timor, Mongolia and Afghanistan, the AFC's ad-hoc legal committee said they had not played enough official competitions to be able to vote, but Fifa said they had.
The Kuwaitis were told they would be excluded from voting because the AFC did not recognise the temporary committee running their football affairs. Again, Fifa disagreed."What we want is for everyone, all associations, to have their say and to express their opinions with absolute freedom," said Sheikh Salman. "We want to promote equality among member associations, transparency within the AFC organisation, with an emphasis on transparency in reporting AFC finances, and promoting unity for the development of Asian football."
Meanwhile, the Kuwait Football Association has lodged a complaint with Fifa's ethics and disciplinary committees against Mohamed and Australian broadcaster Les Murray for "spreading defamatory statements tarnishing the election process". It stems from claims that Mohamed made in an interview with Murray that the Kuwait-based Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) was offering grants to football associations in Asia to secure their votes for Sheikh Salman.Murray, who sits on Fifa's ethics committee, asked world football's governing body to investigate. The OCA angrily denied the "baseless" accusations.

Apr 15, 2009

Arsenal won't rely on defense against Villarreal

Playing for a 0-0 draw against Villarreal in the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinals on Wednesday won't be good enough for Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

Arsenal will advance to the semifinals if they can keep the match at Emirates Stadium scoreless because they earned a 1-1 draw last week in the first leg at Villarreal.

"Our approach is to win the game, we have to be as simple as that," Wenger said Tuesday. "I don't feel that we are used to going into games trying to play 0-0. Of course we will be organized and disciplined but, when we have the ball, we want to score goals."

The London club will be helped by the absence of Villarreal midfielder Marcos Senna, who scored the Spanish team's goal in the first leg but then picked up a hamstring injury in Saturday's 2-0 loss at Malaga.

Arsenal, however, beat Wigan 4-1 Saturday in the Premier League, so the team's best chance of reaching the last four may be to attack.

"We have turned the season in a very positive way and put ourselves in a great position to qualify and we want to take advantage of that," said Wenger, whose team next meets Chelsea in the FA Cup semifinals on Saturday. "I believe the determination, the hunger and the quality are there and we now face test after test."

Despite the absence of Senna, who was one of Spain's best players when it won last year's European Championship, Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini still believes his team is as good as Arsenal.

"I don't think Arsenal are a better side than us," Pellegrini said before training at the Emirates Stadium. "What we want to do is play our game and control the ball on the ground."

The winner of Wednesday's game will face either defending champion Manchester United or FC Porto in the semifinals. United and Porto drew 2-2 in the first leg and next play Wednesday in Portugal. The final is in Rome on May 27.

Arsenal forward Andrei Arshavin is ineligible for Wednesday's match because he played for Zenit St. Petersburg in the competition before his transfer to the Gunners, but the team has most of its forwards back after injury.

Robin van Persie and Eduardo da Silva are close to starting while Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott both played in Saturday's victory at Wigan, which strengthened Arsenal's grip on fourth place in the Premier League.

Wenger's problems are at the back with first-choice goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, central defender Johan Djourou and left back Gael Clichy injured and center back William Gallas out for the rest of the season.

Villarreal midfielder Santi Cazorla is also out with a broken leg and, although Matias Fernandez and Ruben "Cani" Garcia missed the loss to Malaga, Pellegrini recalled them to the squad and said they were fit.

"If we have to play extra time I am happy with that," Pellegrini said. "We have prepared for extra time but we will try to win in the first 90 minutes.

"We know that Arsenal have a few players who aren't going to be playing and, if they don't have them, we are going to try and profit from that."-AP

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The Korean Football Association is at the center of a row that could have a huge impact on global soccer.

That sounds a little dramatic when you learn that it is all about the May 8 election for the West Asian seat on the executive committee of FIFA. But this seemingly less-than-vital vote could have major repercussions.

Asia has four seats on the committee, with only the West Asian one up for grabs. It is currently occupied by the Asian Football Confederation president Mohammed Bin Hammam and he is being challenged by Shaikh Salman of Bahrain. Despite the fact that he is due to be AFC chief until 2011, the Qatari Bin Hammam has publicly said that he will treat the May 8 election as a referendum on his administration and step down as confederation president if he loses.

Bin Hammam has repeatedly claimed that Salman has been put up to his campaign by Chung Mong-joon. Chung is not only a fellow executive seat member, he is the vice-president of FIFA and honorary president of the Korean Football Association. In short, he is suave and serious player in the world game. If that weren't enough, his father founded Hyundai, he is a Korean National Assembly member and is widely credited with bringing the 2002 World Cup to Korea.

Bin Hammam was recently named the third-most powerful man in football by World Soccer magazine. When friend and ally Sepp Blatter steps down from the No. 1 position, Bin Hammam could be the man to replace him. But, as the Qatari told me last week, Chung wants to stop that from happening. This is why, the theory goes, he has sent Sheikh Salman to do his bidding.

"Chung and myself have never enjoyed a good relationship in the 20 years or so since I came to the AFC," Bin Hammam said. "The second thing is that Chung is trying to contest for the FIFA presidency and he knows that I am not going to support him. ... This man knows nothing about football."

Strong words, and he didn't stop there.

"I was preparing a clean and fair play campaign. One thing you know that if Chung is your opponent then a fair campaign is not going to be there. This is his nature ... the man can't do fair play."

Chung has said little so far. After all, he is not a candidate and there is a feeling that a mudslinging match is what Bin Hammam is aiming for. Instead, KFA General-Secretary Sam Ka was only too happy to oblige when invited to comment.

"I never heard about any kind of financial assistance given to Sheikh Salman by Chung. (Regarding the KFA), we can show you any financial statement. I don't know why he said the KFA is financing Sheikh Salman. As far as I know, Sheikh Salman is much richer than anybody in the KFA."

Chung was the president of the KFA for 16 years before he retired in January. In addition to remaining its honorary president, he has been a valuable contributor to Korean and East Asian football. For anyone to say that Chung doesn't know about football is not a joke; it is nonsense.

Many so-called major football countries, not only Korea but Japan, China, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and others are not happy with Bin Hammam's management of the AFC. Many say that he became more dictatorial and unilateral. That is why many support his opponent.

Sheikh Salman, for his part, has threatened to take legal action if Bin Hammam does not prove his accusations.

Being perceived as Sheikh Salman's chief backer is a gamble for the KFA, one of the major associations in Asia. Bin Hammam is not one to forget those who slight him and if he stays in power, it certainly won't help Korea's chances of hosting the 2018 or 2022 World Cups.

By John Duerden /Contributing writer

Lampard settles Chelsea's nerves

Chelsea denied Liverpool the glory of another sensational European comeback to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League with a 7-5 aggregate win.

Liverpool, trailing 3-1 from the first leg at Anfield, stunned the Blues with two first-half goals from Fabio Aurelio and Xabi Alonso, who scored a penalty.

Chelsea's defensive frailties, exposed so clinically by Bolton in the Premier League at the weekend, looked like costing them a place in the last four as Liverpool, without their talismanic midfielder Steven Gerrard, threatened to pull off another miracle.

But the Blues looked home and dry after producing a sensational comeback of their own - scoring three times in the second half to lead 6-3 on aggregate at one stage.

Yet this incredible contest took another twist when Liverpool scored twice in as many minutes through Lucas and Dirk Kuyt to leave them just one goal adrift of an incredible victory.

However, Frank Lampard's second in the 89th minute secured a 4-4 draw on the night and a date with Barcelona.

The home side had been outplayed in the opening 45 minutes and had barely threatened to get on the scoresheet despite coach Guus Hiddink's pre-match assertion that Chelsea would go for more goals.

They had to wait until six minutes after the break for the goal which eased the growing pressure on their ambitions of reaching the final in Rome.

Didier Drogba's effort was deflected into the back of the net by Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina and a stunning 25-yard free-kick from Brazilian defender Alex then looked to have eased any remaining worries.

When Lampard added a third in the 76th minute the tie seemed to be effectively all over, but Liverpool had other ideas.

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez had always maintained the first goal would be the most important but when Kuyt collected a pass from Yossi Benayoun and fired over in the 13th minute, he could have been forgiven for thinking that perhaps the task ahead was indeed far too great.

But six minutes later Liverpool were in dreamland when they punished Lampard's push on Kuyt in spectacular fashion.

With everyone expecting the free-kick from the right of goal to be pumped high into the centre of the penalty area, Aurelio stunned everyone, including the flat-footed Petr Cech, by firing his 30-yard effort straight into the bottom near corner of the net.

Referee Luis Cantalejo then rightly awarded Liverpool a penalty when Chelsea's first-leg goal hero Branislav Ivanovic clearly held back Alonso.

The Liverpool midfielder stepped up to beat Cech and suddenly the impossible seemed possible.

Chelsea had Cech to thank for keeping them on level terms on aggregate when he tipped away a header from Kuyt in the final minute of the opening half.

Hiddink's side needed a goal to take the sting out of Liverpool's motivation and it arrived somewhat fortunately in the 51st minute.

Nicolas Anelka, a 35th-minute replacement for the poor Salomon Kalou, crossed low from the right and Drogba got a touch on the ball, with Reina only able to turn it over the line.

Chelsea made it 2-2 on the night when Jamie Carragher's foul on Drogba was punished by a fierce 25-yard free-kick by Alex.

With 14 minutes remaining Liverpool's dreams looked finished when Drogba crossed for Lampard to apply the finish.

But a long-range effort from Lucas was deflected off Michael Essien and beyond Cech in the 81st minute and, somewhat astonishingly, Kuyt put Liverpool 4-3 ahead on the night with a six-yard header two minutes later.

But with Liverpool needing one more goal for a glorious victory in this emotional week on Merseyside, 20 years on from the Hillsborough disaster, Lampard ended a stunning contest with his second of the night in the last minute.

Chelsea will face Barcelona in the last four but only after Liverpool had pushed them all the way in a pulsating contest that was a marvellous showcase for English and European football.

Benitez must have wished Gerrard had been fit enough to play as his contribution may well have been the telling one, on a night when the Reds almost managed to achieve the unthinkable.

Apr 1, 2009

FAM has privatised the National Team ..Poor choice of candidates

Former international Dollah Salleh is tipped to become the new national football coach.
It is learnt that Dollah, who is now with Premier League side Shahzan Muda, has received an offer to take the hot seat vacated by B. Sathianathan, whose services was terminated last month.
Former Sarawak coach Jalil Ramli and former Police coach K. Thaiyanathan have also been linked to become the assistant coaches.
Newly-appointed national team manager Datuk Gulzar Mohd Nor indicated last month that he preferred local coaches to take the jobs.
Dollah turned to coaching in 2003 and he got off to a great start, leading Petaling Jaya Municipal Council (MPPJ) to become the first club to win the Malaysia Cup.
In 2005, Dollah guided Selangor to win the treble — the Premier League, FA Cup and Malaysia Cup titles.
Besides Dollah, it is learnt that the other candidates considered for the national coach’s job included Kedah’s Mohd Azrai Khor and Selangor’s K. Devan.
The FA of Malaysia (FAM) general secretary, Datuk Azzuddin Ahmad, said that the technical committee had shortlisted three candidates from the initial 10 for two vacant positions — in the national and Under-23 (SEA Games) sides.
And Harimau Muda (national Under-19) coach K. Rajagopal is set to take charge of the side for the Laos SEA Games in December.
“It is highly likely that the decisions would be made at the council meeting on April 11,” said Azzuddin yesterday.
The national coach would be in charge of the team for the high-profile friendly match against English giants Manchester United on July 25 and the Merdeka Tournament from July 31-Aug 9.
The national team are also involved in the Asia Cup qualifying tournament and their next match is against Uzbekistan in November. Sathianathan’s contract with the national team was terminated after a 0-5 drubbing by the United Arab Emirates in their opening match of the qualifiers on Jan 21.
Meanwhile, Sathianathan re-ceived on Monday the letter terminating his services as national coach and he said that he would look at the legal aspects of the contract before deciding on the next course of action.
“I have been given a month’s notice and will leave the FAM at the end of April,” he said yesterday.