Hammam urged to reconsider his threat to quit AFC office

KUALA LUMPUR: Regional soccer chief Mohamed bin Hammam was urged today to reconsider his threat to quit as Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president if he loses his seat on FIFA's executive committee. The Qatari, who has been AFC csince 2002, has said he will resign on Friday if he does not retain his FIFA position, claiming there was no point continuing if he did not have the support despite his term running until 2011. But Fernando Manilal, who sits on the AFC's executive committee, is leading a push for Bin Hammam to stay in the job regardless. "When the contest started, Bin Hammam said that he will resign if he loses, but since then he has travelled all around Asia and many countries have pledged their support to him as AFC president," the Manilal said. "I told him it is unfair for him to decide what he will do. Rather, he owes it to the people who supported him to serve the AFC until 2011. We will be pushing hard to tell him to remain in power until 2011." Bin Hammam, who is credited with launching the AFC Champions League, bringing Australia into Asia and promoting grassroots football, is being challenged for his FIFA seat by Bahrain's Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa. The campaign has been one of the most divisive Asian football has known and remains too close to call. While Sheikh Salman and his team have launched a media blitz ahead of Friday's vote at the AFC Congress, Bin Hammam has remained silent over the past few weeks. Velappan apologises KUALA LUMPUR: Gaffe-prone former top Asian Football Confederation (AFC) official Peter Velappan was forced to apologise on Wednesday after telling the AFC president to go home "to the desert." The remark at a press conference, in which Velappan was critical of Qatari AFC chief Mohamed bin Hammam, drew the ire of Arab journalists, who condemned it as racist. Velappan, who was the AFC's secretary-general for 30 years, was asked to retract the comment, with former AFC official Mohamed Awada leading the demands. "I come from the desert and that is an insult to us," said Lebanon's Awada, the organisation's former press officer. Velappan issued a statement of apology. "I also want to express my most heartfelt regret to all member associations of the AFC as well," said the Malaysian, who has come out of retirement to drum up support for Bin Hammam's challenger, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa. Bahrain's Sheikh Salman is looking to unseat Bin Hammam from his FIFA executive committee seat in a bitter battle that has been marked by mud-slinging. The AFC's 46-member nations will vote on the matter at their congress here on Friday.