Trouble ahead as Bin Hammam defies FIFA instructions

KULA LUMPUR: 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 formed earlier 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. Hammam’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 yesterday: “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 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 events 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 U-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.

FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valkcke, in a letter to Ogura on April 27, said the ad-hoc Legal Committee has “no competence to take any decision with legal effect” and 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,” reiterated Valkcke. “The Congress, as the supreme authority of AFC, 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 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.”