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By ESPN Staff
Dec 9, 2006

Arab leaders say move will damage soccer in Asia

DOHA, Qatar -- Arab sports leaders are upset that Australia has joined the Asian soccer federation, contending such a move will damage the sport in the region. Australia became a member of the Asian Football Confederation this year after frustrating attempts at getting a direct route to the World Cup through the Oceania group. The head of Kuwait's Olympic Committee said Australia's membership should be revoked before qualifying starts for the 2010 World Cup. Sheik Talah al-Fahd Al Sabah, president of the West Asian Games committee, echoed earlier comments by his brother Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah, the Olympic Council of Asia president. "We are against Australia joining the Asian continent, even in soccer," Sheik Talal said. "This is the biggest mistake made against Asian soccer. This will kill the ambitions of Asian soccer." Australia reached the second round of the World Cup before losing on a last-minute penalty kick to eventual champion Italy. The Aussies had qualified for the World Cup through the Oceania group and beating Uruguay in a playoff for the last spot. The Australians are among the 16 qualifiers for the 2007 Asian Cup, which is being hosted by Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. "What are we going to benefit from Australia's soccer team when it plays a game with Asia? Is it the experience?" Sheik Talal said. "We might play with them once every four years, not more." Earlier, Sheik Ahmad said Australia should not be part of the Asian group for any Olympic sports. "If Australia will come to Asia, we are killing about 16 other nations," he said.