FIFA vice president Jordanian Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein has added his voice to calls for the replacement of disgraced Qatari national Mohamed Bin Hammam as president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
Prince Ali made his remarks two days before the executive committee of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) meets in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur to decide the fate of Mr. Bin Hammam, the organization’s president who was last weekend banned for life from involvement in soccer by world soccer body FIFA.
Mr. Bin Hammam, a Qatari national, said earlier this week in a letter to AFC members that he would not resign as the organization’s head as long as his appeal of the FIFA decision was pending.
FIFA’s ethics committee banned Mr. Bin Hammam last Saturday on charges that he had bribed officials of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) to secure their support for his failed campaign for the FIFA presidency. FIFA president Sepp Blatter was last month re-elected unchallenged for a fourth term after Mr. Bin Hammam withdrew his candidacy because of the bribery charges.
Mr. Bin Hammam has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. He has suggested that the charges against him were trumped up in a bid to prevent him from defeating Mr. Blatter in the FIFA presidential election.
“Mr. bin Hammam has the right to appeal and that is his own personal decision and we respect that. However, it would be unacceptable for anyone to try and drag AFC and Asian football into any process through irresponsible action. I certainly will not accept that,” The Associated Press quoted Prince Ali as saying in an email.
Prince Ali’s remarks came a day after Japan Football Association president Junji Ogura called for Mr. Bin Hammam’s replacement.
Prince Ali expressed doubt that the corruption scandal involving Mr. Bin Hammam would tarnish the reputation of Middle Eastern soccer.
He pointed to the fact that Qatar had been awarded the right to host the 2022 World Cup.
Mr. Bin Hammam’s banning has fuelled calls for an investigation of his role in the awarding of the tournament to Qatar as well as private investigations by parties critical of the Gulf state’s successful bid campaign. Qatar may well emerge unscathed from any inquiry but the dust has yet to settle despite the fact that earlier allegations of Qatari wrongdoing in its bid campaign turned out to be fabrications.
“Football in the Middle East is advancing step by step and we all must continue to focus on developing the game in the best interest of the players and the fans. I have great faith in my colleagues in West Asia and across the continent and I am confident that we will work hand in hand and in all transparency. That is the work ethic that we aspire to. At the same time, we have to be vigilant and address any misconduct,” Prince Ali said.
Prince Ali was late year elected as a member of the executive committees of the AFC and FIFA on a platform that called for greater transparency in the troubled world soccer body and support for women’s soccer.
He recently said that he was seeking to resolve a dispute between Iran, practicing Muslim women players and FIFA over the wearing of the hijab, a Muslim headdress that covers the hair, ears and neck of women, during soccer matches. Iran was effective prevented from qualifying for the London 2012 Olympics because its team appeared on the pitch for a match against Jordan wearing the hijab in violation of a FIFA ban on all religious and political symbols.
Prince Ali said that the ideal choice for the next AFC president would be someone who “runs on a clear platform, who explains himself and his vision and presents a program on how he sees the future of AFC, rather than running on a political platform or based on geography.”
The prince stressed that he was not a candidate for the AFC presidency, but declined to indicate whom he would see as suitable for the job.
(James M. Dorsey, formerly of The Wall Street Journal, is a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer)