Qatar's Mohammed bin Hammam arrives at FIFA headquarters for his hearing before the ethics committee
Qatar's Mohammed bin Hammam arrives at FIFA headquarters for his hearing before the ethics committee of football's world governing body over bribery allegations on May 29, 2011 in Zurich. Bin Hammam is "still the president" of Asian football, his Chinese deputy Zhang Jilong insisted Tuesday despite being confirmed as acting chief while the Qatari faces a corruption probe. © Fabrice Coffrini - AFP
Qatar's Mohammed bin Hammam arrives at FIFA headquarters for his hearing before the ethics committee
<
>
Talek Harris, AFP
Last updated: February 6, 2012

Acting AFC chief says Hammam still boss

Mohamed bin Hammam is "still the president" of Asian football, his Chinese deputy Zhang Jilong insisted Tuesday despite being confirmed as acting chief while the Qatari faces a corruption probe.

Zhang said FIFA had "no right" to suspend bin Hammam from Asian Football Confederation (AFC) duties while it investigates allegations the former candidate tried to buy votes for the world body's presidential election.

"FIFA suspended bin Hammam but he is still the president of the AFC. FIFA has no right to prevent him from acting (in) his role in the AFC," Zhang said, according to the China Daily.

FIFA said bin Hammam was barred from all football activities worldwide when it announced its ruling on Sunday. And despite Zhang's comments, the AFC confirmed the vice president had taken over as temporary leader.

"We, the members of the AFC executive committee, express our deepest concern at the latest developments within FIFA and that involves the AFC president Mohamed bin Hammam," an AFC statement said.

"We will be following the investigation as it takes its course. We hope the outcome of the investigation will be in the best interests of football in Asia and beyond."

On Monday, bin Hammam said he would appeal against the ban, which is in force while FIFA probes allegations that $40,000 cash bribes were offered to delegates in return for their votes.

Bin Hammam was suspended just hours after unexpectedly pulling out of the race to unseat Sepp Blatter, FIFA leader for the past 13 years, in Wednesday's presidential election.

Peter Velappan, the AFC's former general secretary and a known opponent of bin Hammam, said late Monday that Zhang's appointment was automatic under AFC rules.

"In the absence of a president, the deputy president will become the acting president. Bin Hammam cannot oppose this development," Velappan told AFP.

"This is the best thing for Asian football," he added.

Most Asian football bodies have declined comment this week, but heavyweights South Korea said they were maintaining their support for the Qatari.

Sri Lanka's Manilal Fernando, a bin Hammam ally who beat Zhang to a seat on FIFA's executive committee in January, also remained firmly behind the embattled president.

"Sri Lanka still supports bin Hammam and he is still the best," Fernando told AFP in an email.

Zhang's appointment follows an unprecedented crisis for global football with senior officials facing a welter of corruption claims, many stemming from Qatar's shock confirmation as 2022 World Cup host.

Les Murray, an Australian member of FIFA's ethics committee which suspended bin Hammam, said the governing body needed "complete structural and also constitutional reform".

"I think the reform has to be very deep," he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"In all reality, there probably has to be complete structural and also constitutional reform."

Australia's government also called for far-reaching changes. The country was one of the bidders that lost out to Qatar in the race for the 2022 World Cup, finishing with a humiliating one vote despite its high hopes.

"There is no doubt there needs to be reform of FIFA. This is something that we're hearing worldwide," said Sports Minister Mark Arbib, adding Australia would push for a new bidding process if corruption is proved against Qatar.

"Football lovers are concerned about the goings-on of the past weeks and also during the (2022) bid."

Qatar has denied claims by Jack Warner, the powerful head of the Caribbean, North and Central American federation who was suspended alongside bin Hammam, that it had "bought" the world's biggest sports extravaganza.

blog comments powered by Disqus