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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Apr 16, 2009

Bin Hammam responds in FIFA election row

Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed bin Hammam has questioned the motives of those behind a move to oust him from his position on the FIFA executive committee as the battle for the role grows increasingly tense.

Hammam will defend his seat on FIFA's ruling council at the AFC Congress in Kuala Lumpur on May 8 against Sheikh Salman Al Khalifa, the president of the Bahrain Football Association.

The campaign, however, has turned uglier by the day with Sheikh Salman's group launching a series of attacks against Hammam via a number of high-profile sporting figures around the region.

Kuwait's Sheikh Ahmad Al Sabah, the head of the Olympic Council of Asia, and the AFC's former general secretary, Peter Velappan, have been among the Qatari's most public critics.

Neither, though, has a vote when the poll is taken early next month and that has left Hammam wondering why the campaign against him is being led by people who will not be eligible to participate in the secret ballot in the Malaysian capital.

''If, as some of the opponents say, everybody is so unhappy with me in Asia, how come the campaign is headed by the OCA and a former general secretary and not by dissenting national football associations?'' he said.

''My concern is that throughout the campaign for the seat in the FIFA executive committee, nobody on the opposing side speaks of football and football matters.

''That is what we should be discussing. The issues have got lost because the entire campaign has turned purely political.

''Of course I understand why they don't speak about football. This entire campaign is not about football. And, frankly speaking, nobody inside the OCA is qualified to speak about football. Hence they focus on personal attacks that are largely below the belt.''

Hammam's comments come after FIFA president Sepp Blatter issued a statement on the governing body's official website requesting that both sides taking part in the election do so in the spirit of the game.

''Football is a universal sport based on the fundamental principles of discipline and respect for opponents and the laws of the game as well as on the spirit of competitiveness and rivalry, underpinned by the values of fair play and ethics,'' said Blatter.

''These principles and values must be applied not only on the field of play, but also in the administration and governance of football, particularly in the area of sports politics. And, of course, this includes elections to the governing bodies of football.

''As president of FIFA, it is my duty to remind all members of the Asian football community of the importance of these values in the run-up to the election scheduled for May 8 for the vacant Asian seat on the FIFA executive committee and of the requirement to respect FIFA's Statutes, principles and decisions, in accordance with the regulations governing world football.''

Asia has four seats on the FIFA executive committee but only one of those is to be contested during the congress.

Allegations of vote buying have already seen Justice Petrus Damaseb, the acting head of FIFA's ethics committee, confirm he would look into the election campaign after a request to do so was made by Australian broadcaster Les Murray, who is also a member of the watchdog committee.

''I have been given reliable information that there is a case of 'vote-buying' going on ahead of the election to appoint an AFC member to the FIFA executive committee. The information points to at least one high level football official being involved,'' Murray wrote in a letter to Damaseb.

''In an interview with SBS, recorded on March 30, Mr Bin Hammam claimed that the Olympic Council of Asia, via its national Olympic committees, is offering cash grants to selected national football associations in Asia in return for securing their votes for Sheikh Salman.''

Murray added that SBS had obtained ''credible corroborating evidence to support Mr Bin Hammam's claims, including testimony from the president of a national football association in Asia who told us his organisation has received such offers''.

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