x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

A mixed reaction to Mohamed bin Hammam Fifa banning

The life ban handed down to Mohamed bin Hammam from Fifa was welcomed in some parts of Asia, met with silence in others and called 'a sad day for the AFC'.

Reaction to Mohamed bin Hammam’s ban from football has been mixed in Asia and the Gulf region.
Reaction to Mohamed bin Hammam’s ban from football has been mixed in Asia and the Gulf region.

Mohamed bin Hammam vowed to overturn his bribery conviction and lifetime ban from football, calling the decision an act of "revenge" by Fifa and its president, Sepp Blatter.

Bin Hammam yesterday told the BBC that "the ban for life, that shows how much these people are angry, how much they are full of revenge".

Fifa imposed the ban on Saturday after finding the suspended Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president guilty of bribery allegations in his campaign to unseat Blatter as head of the sport's world governing body, just months after he helped secure 2022 World Cup hosting rights for Qatar.

Bin Hammam denies the allegations, and plans to clear his name by launching several appeals, including at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.

His ban was welcomed in some parts of Asia but greeted with silence among football leaders in the Gulf.

In Malaysia, the former AFC general secretary Peter Velappan cheered the punishment against the Qatari, 62, describing bin Hammam as "the architect of bribery and corruption" in the region.

"Justice is done and it's good for Fifa and good for football," Velappan said.

The bribery scandal led to Bin Hammam abandoning his campaign for the presidency and led to the veteran executive committee member becoming the most senior official convicted of corruption in the governing body's 107-year history.

The Football Association in the UAE refused to comment, as did Bahrain's association, whose president, Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, could run for the AFC presidency following bin Hammam's ban.

In Doha, fans at the Qatar World Cup qualifier against Vietnam on Saturday night portrayed bin Hammam as a good man who was being punished for challenging Blatter.

But the Qatar federation itself, where bin Hammam was once president, declined to come to his defense. Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani responded to a question with "no comment".

China's Zhang Jilong, who has been interim president of the AFC since bin Hammam was provisionally suspended last month, described Fifa's ban on bin Hammam as a "sad day for the AFC and Asian football".

Velappan said he disagreed.

"It is the best news for Asian football and Fifa. I think most AFC members would be happy. It will be damaging for Asia to have a corrupted leader," he said.

"I have worked with bin Hammam. He totally polarised the Asian football family and marginalised big players such as Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia … So the next challenge for the new leader will be to bring back the unity and harmony of Asia as a family, then get on with the development of the game."

Chuck Blazer, the executive committee member who blew the whistle on the bribery scandal, welcomed the ban for bin Hammam as a warning to anyone in football tempted to use corrupt means.

"It's a very good day for football in that it has been demonstrated that the process we adopted five years ago with the ethics code and committee is able to work," the US representative to Fifa said.

"The fact we have suffered suspensions is sad, but it will send notice to anybody else that might be considering that type of corrupt activity that Fifa is not the place to try it."

Velappan urged Fifa to conduct wide-ranging investigations into Qatar's winning bid for the 2022 World Cup and into allegations of corruption at all levels.