Will the most powerful man in Asian football leave FIFA?


By Steve Menary
Mohammed Bin Hammam, the president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and the most powerful man in Asian football, faces a challenge to his place on FIFA’s executive committee.

Bahrain's Shaikh Salman Ebrahim Al Khalifa will run against the Qatari after Bin Hammam upset factions of the regional body, which encompasses the Middle East and Asia.

"I know president Bin Hammam very well,” Shaikh Salman told news agency AFP. ”We all supported him in the beginning but I think that vote of trust we gave him, I am very sorry to say, we have created a dictator.

"He is not for all but for himself. We think there is a line that has been drawn and this line has been crossed. His autocratic decisions have divided Asian football."

The AFC has four places on the FIFA ExCo. South Korea's Chung Mong-Joon is vice president and joined by Japan's Junji Ogura from East Asia, Thailand's Worawi Makudi from Southeast Asia but only Bin Hammam’s seat representing West Asia is up for grabs.

Bin Hammam's presidency runs until 2011 but the poetry reading Qatari indicated that if he loses his FIFA seat then he will quit as AFC chief.

In the build-up to Shaikh Salman’s declaration, Bin Hammam accused the Bahrain Football Association president of a plot to take over the AFC presidency.
Shaikh Salman, however, claims only to be interested in the FIFA position, adding: ”Whether he stays as AFC president or doesn't stay does not matter to me. I have no intention of running for AFC president."

Bin Hammam has been on the FIFA ExCo 1996 since 1996 and overseen the creation of the Asian Champions’s league and the admission of Australia from the neighbouring Oceania confederation.

His rule is seen as autocratic by some powerful AFC members, including the South Korean federation, who are believed to back Shaikh Salman, after Bin Hammam has proposed changes to the AFC constitution to allow the AFC president an automatic place on the FIFA ExCo. If approved, South Korea's Chung Mong-Joon could lose his seat.

Bin Hammam’s recent changes to the Asian Champions League have also been controversial and could cost him support from smaller AFC members, who are being sidelined from the competition.

From 2009, the Asian Champions League will be expanded to 32 clubs but only sides from the top 11 leagues in Asia will be admitted - all clubs from amateur or semi-professional leagues are excluded.

The AFC, which was founded in 1954, has 46 members but professionalism has only really started to take root across Asia in the last decade and not all members are in the same financial position as oil-rich Qatar and able to support professionalism.

The vote on the FIFA ExCo place will take place at the AFC Congress on May 8 – the day before Bin Hammam’s sixtieth birthday.

  • Juan De La Cruz, Philippines, 31.03.2009 13:02:

    "Tuesday, February 24, 2009
    Six feet under. Feels like it. Do you have a price?

    I attended the 5th PFF Congress today at the Discovery Suites.

    I have been critical of the Philippine Football Federation. And I have with good reason what with all their follies. Nevertheless, I went to the Congress with an open mind and with hopes that some good may come out of it. Did that include an ouster? Not necessarily. I was hoping for some humility on everyone's part.

    I left the same way I did the PFF House of Football three weeks ago... nauseated and maybe even more damning, with my reinforced belief that this country is fucking hopeless. And quite honestly, I will not finish the five-part series on the state of football in this country. I will write about the former women's national futsal team for my column next Monday but after that... I refuse to want to do anything with the sport on a national level. Kayo na lang.

    That's how disgusted I am with what transpired.

    People who I previously looked up to... well, I no longer do.

    But I am getting ahead of myself.

    If the President of the PFF had indeed the permission of AFC President Mohammed Bin Hammam to use the AID 27 funds for other matters then why was that not communicated before? In a previous meeting with Mariano Araneta and Mari Martinez, it was never brought up. Instead, Martinez said that they were not paid for non-submission of their reports. I have written about that previously and there's no need for me to recount that once more. So why was it only in the last few days that it was used as an excuse/reason why it was re-allocated? I asked Martinez up front about it when I met up with him at the PFF and he never mentioned it at all. And that was a four hour meeting.

    When Hammam gave his opening remarks, he cast his vote and open support for Martinez. He said that during the time of Johnny Romualdez, there were a lot of politics. Yes he did say that. And during Martinez' term, there was more of the same. He has been reading what Cedelf Tupas and I have been writing about and he was disgusted that people went to the media to air their grievances. He even implied that those complaining are causing trouble and the stunt of football in the country. He trivialized the complaints!

    Of course he can sympathize because member countries in the AFC are out to get him too. And the few times he's on ESPN, it's because there's a move to oust him.

    Hammam and Martinez then pulled out their trump card: they are for football. Anyone with complaints, please shelve it because it's not helping.

    Oh, I know of quite a few people who kill in the name of God. So please...... spare me the platitudes.

    And so how are the complainants going to fight a system that is not working? I most recently had a boss like that; someone who was truly twisted and would lie as easily as he breathes.

    Hammam: "Our leaders have been beset by politics. You have to be given the right platform, guidance, and support not for ourselves but for football. You are not in a position to defend yourselves. Save the nation. Save the youth. The youth have not been saved. I am a real friend of yours and am talking from my heart to your heart."

    Then he pledged Php 5 million in help for 2009 and another Php 5 million for 2010 outside the usual aid that the PFF receives from the AFC and FIFA.

    And he gestured towards Martinez, "Will you accept this gift, Mr. President?"

    Jeez. Let me pause to insert my expletives here. What drama! What emotion!

    Oh wait, the emotion was yet to come.

    When Hammam retired for the morning session, the congress argued bitterly for about an hour over agenda, protocol, and legal stuff that a recess had to be called because tempers were flaring. I jokingly told Mayor Joselito Piñol of the North Cotobato Football Association, "Does it always get this exciting here?"

    He smiled back and only nodded.

    After the recess, Martinez gave the floor to the Chairman Emeritus Johnny Romualdez. "Tito Johnny" as I fondly call him was my dad's classmate in Ateneo and he has on occasion invited me for various stuff for the PFF even if he knew that I took potshots at the federation. It's work; nothing personal so wipe that goddam smirk off your face.

    Two days before the Board of Governors meeting over the past weekend, we spoke on the phone for over an hour. He told me that he was leaning towards the side of the group that wanted to oust him. He recounted how Martinez that he needed his support and if he couldn't give it then...

    Romualdez texted and called Martinez several times that day but the President did not reply or take any calls. Tito Johnny said that he was aware of all the wrong that was done and yet if Martinez didn't call him the following day then he would side with the opposition.

    He texted me later that day and I told him "I hope you do the right thing."

    The former PFF President replied, "I have done the right thing. It is the others who need to do so."

    As he took the microphone, he was tearful and I am not sure if he shed any tears. But his voice was cracking. He spoke of how Mari was once against him yet now they were on the same side. And he reiterated the need for solidarity and that hopefully, everyone could work for football rather than fight one another. He said that he did not run for re-election because if he did, it would have cost the PFF Php30-50,000 a month just for legal fees as he was being sued by a member association. He said he did the honorable thing and let someone else continue his job.

    After the tele-novela portion was over I knew that well... the day was done and it was all going to be talk, bullshit, and even more bullshit from here. I mean, how much bullshit can I take?

    Apparently, the others couldn't too. In their own way.

    Atty. Anlu Carpio of the Naga Football Association soon left telling me that he knew it was over and that the Php 10 million will no doubt swing the minds of others.

    Even more shocking, Nonong Araneta told me too that ouster was now out of the question and that we had Php 10 million in return. He'll just work for amendments and checks and balances within the system.

    Sorry sir, this is what you told me two days before the Congress when I wasn't sure if I should continue writing about what was going on: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

    Now, I guess this is what William Wallace must have felt when Robert the Bruce allowed him get captured by the English.

    Many people behind football asked if I could write about the sport's problems domestically and that they were glad that someone had the guts to write it.

    Arriving at the 42nd floor of the Discovery Suites before the sessions started, I was welcomed like some wartime liberator. But I am not here for the glory, but that football may take it's rightful place as one of our top sports programs. Instead... it's right on top of my lists for incompetence, stupidity, and least desired organizations. You're looking for a reason why football will not grow? It's because we are divided by selfish interests and men with agendas. Joaqui Preysler said this, "Before when there was no money coming in from FIFA, no one gave a rat's ass about the PFF and football. When the money started coming in... ayan na."

    There you go!

    Back to the Congress. I was shocked at how casually Martinez dismissed many of the questions and allegations with a "noted.'

    When one member mentioned that plight of the former RP Women's Futsal Team, Martinez casually tossed it away with a "noted." Twice.

    One member went up to the microphone and said that the next time he visits the PFF office, hopefully the President will be nice enough not to yell at him. Martinez said --- you guessed it -- "Noted."

    When the National Capital Region Football Association's Poch Borromeo got angry about Martinez' casual reply, as the General Secretariat has more often than not failed to provide the written minutes, proof etc that has always been requested during a congress, he said that he'd get it on March 7. But not after a lot of arguing.

    When another questioned Martinez' reply of "We'll look into it," the President spelled it out: "L-O-O-K!" What childishness and obnoxiousness! Sesame Street is in session.

    For a man who promised transparency and sincerity, he should look up the meaning of the word. And throw in some humility there.

    Oh, yes. This was the man who said it three times to me in my long talk with him at the PFF: "I am the PFF. I am football in this country. I am friends with Hammam and Blatter and no one can touch me."

    A regular MC Hammer he is, isn't he?

    And what kind of Financial Report was that when there are no checkbooks, checks, and other real and hard proof that this money is here and this money was spent for such. It is all talk. That's why it is being questioned. If proper procedure had been followed or even transparency then maybe none of this will have happened.

    When Financial Committee Chairman Bok Marty was asked if the budget for 2008 was not followed, he weakly admitted yes. Because some inflows didn't come in as expected and there were unforeseen expenses. Holy cow!

    My pop taught me not to live beyond my means. Maybe these people don't know that.

    If I were accused of such, I'd have all the proof in the world with me. As it is, with the PFF, it's all talk.

    The Board of Governors threw out the ouster as part of the agenda because the complainants did not furnish proof or give it the mandatory time allowed. Technicalities daw. They were quick to dismiss that yet when those who were asking for proof of PFF's accounting, paperwork etc they had none!

    Some in attendance could see what was wrong but they didn't want to complain. There are even a few on the General Secretariat who feel that way. Let Borromeo and company do the dirty work because they sound like bitter old men, say the others. That way, their reps are sullied while we stay clean.

    But it is the blindness men wish for. Sigh.

    Most people went into that Congress with an agenda whether personal or altruistic reasons. And I am not going to speculate on what their motivations were.

    I just walked away knowing that money talks and that people in power can get away with a lot of things. Just look at our national government.

    It shook my faith in a lot of people.

    That's it. I'm done. Out like transparency and sincerity in this goddam world."
  • Juan De La Cruz, Philippines, 31.03.2009 00:00:
    Hamman should go. What he did during the Philippine Football Annual Congress last Feb 24, 2009 of which he attended was a big blow to the sport.

    There was a move to oust the Philippine Football President due to grave misuse of funds, and gross mismanagement of the PFF.

    Hamman literally killed the planned ouster by offering bribe money to Congress of 10Million for 2009-2010 outside the usual aid that the PFF receives from the AFC and FIFA.

    He did so because he needed the Philippine Football President to vote for him for the seat in FIFA on May 8 regardless if the Philippine Football president was corrupt and was using football funds for his personal benefit.

    It was very damaging because such an act only encouraged more corruption in the federation and will attract more corrupt people to seek a position in the PFF.

    Too many the act of Hamman was disgusting and truly proves that the international governing bodies do not practice what they preach.

    If Hamman loses and quits AFC ---------he will be doing football a great favor.

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