ZURICH/KUALA LUMPUR: The temperature in the ‘dirty tricks’ war ahead of tomorrow’s Asian presidential election has been raised by FIFA writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
The world federation usually resists any comment on media reports, however it has abandoned that position to fire a warning shot across the bows of the Qatar FA on the basis of an article brought to its notice by the Kuwait FA.
That article concerned rumours that Mohamed Bin Hammam, disgraced former president of the AFC and under a FIFA life ban, had been seeking to influence the outcome of tomorrow’s elections.
Bin Hammam, according to those rumours, was using his influence on behalf of UAE candidate Yousuf Al Serkal – and he is considered the main threat to Kuwaiti-favoured Sheikh Salman of Bahrain.
Standing behind Kuwait’s support for Salman is Sheikh Ahmad Fahad Al-Sabah, the president of the Olympic Council of Asia and brother of KFA president Tilal Al Fahad, a contender for the next presidential election in 2015.
On Tuesday the KFA informed FIFA formally of its “great concern” about a “media article published in the Gulf Daily News” suggesting that Bin Hammam had been pulling strings behind the election scenes.
The letter continued: “We are asking not only the AFC but also FIFA to observe the allegations against Mohamed Bin Hammam and his former collaborators and personal friends very carefully.
“In case the former AFC President should have visited various national associations in order to support the candidacies of Yousuf Al-Serkal, Worawi Makudi and Hassan Al-Thawadi we ask the respective bodies to act immediately as this would cause a serious breach of the life ban from all football-related activities issued by the Adjudicatory Chamber of Fifa against Bin Hammam.”
The letter, from the KFA’s international relations vice-chairman, Husain Al Musallam, added: “We are also deeply concerned about the allegations made against any kind of political interference with regards to the campaigns of Yousef Al Serkal as well as Hassan Al-Thawadi.
“Upon my arrival today in Kuala Lumpur I have witnessed that the entire group of the former AFC President was present and speaking to various members of the AFC family.”
The Kuwaitis’ concern about outside influence, bearing in mind the influence and presence in Kuala Lumpur of Sheikh Fahad, may be considered contradictory by the Qataris.
But the letter did prompt FIFA to come off its usual ‘no comment on the media’ fence and fire a warning letter to the Qatar FA signed by deputy secretary-general Markus Kattner.
Taking the Kuwaiti report of the media article at face value, Kattner told the QFA: “With great concern we took note of the statement made today by the Kuwait Football Association.”
Kattner recalled the life ban judgment against Bin Hammam last December 17 which barred him from taking part in any kind of football-related activity at any national or international level.
He added: “This lifetime ban from all football related activity imposed on Mr Bin Hammam specifically prohibits any member or employee of the football family (eg member associations, officials etc) to contact or meet with Mr Bin Hammam regarding any football related issues.
“In the event Mr. Bin Hammam should visit, attend or meet various AFC members or AFC member associations to support specific candidates . . . this would cause a clear and serious breach of the sanction.
“This ban also includes indirect interference on football-related processes made by Mr Bin Hammam. This would include , for example, third parties representing Mr Bin Hammam, as this would also cause such a breach.
“As you are aware, any member of FIFA . . . who fails to comply with a decision passed by a body, a committee or an instance of FIFA , may be sanctioned.
“We therefore trust that the Qatar Football Association will ensure to comply fully with the Statutes, regulations, directives and decisions of FIFA bodies at any time and take the concerns of the Kuwait Football Association seriously.”