x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Asia in 'stable' condition despite ban on AFC president Hammam

His deputy and general secretary Alex Soosay dispels notions of crisis at the Asian Champions League draw where Al Ittihad could host the final.

Alex Soosay, Asian Football Confederation general secretary, says Asia is not facing a crisis.
Alex Soosay, Asian Football Confederation general secretary, says Asia is not facing a crisis.

KUALA LUMPUR // Asian football is not in "crisis" and is running smoothly despite corruption allegations which have left its leader suspended from the sport, a senior official said yesterday.

Alex Soosay, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) general secretary, said there were no plans for an extraordinary regional congress, stressing president Mohamed bin Hammam's ban was only "provisional".

"There is no insecurity, we are very stable. There are no issues of crisis, as such," Soosay said at the Asian Champions League final stages draw in Kuala Lumpur. "The administration is functioning very efficiently."

Asian football was shaken by last week's dramatic Fifa congress in Zurich when bin Hammam was accused of vote-buying in his failed attempt to topple Sepp Blatter, the world body's long-time leader.

Soosay's comments echo those of Blatter, who last week shrugged off corruption allegations engulfing football's governing body and denied the sport is in crisis.

Bin Hammam has been suspended pending a full investigation. But Soosay said his stand-in, the senior vice-president Zhang Jilong of China, would visit the AFC's Kuala Lumpur headquarters soon to assume his duties.

Zhang has called for a "revolution" to make regional football more transparent.

Apart from corruption allegations, Asian football is also battling a number of other problems including Fifa's suspension of Indonesia's membership for failing to halt a rebel league, and a South Korean match-fixing scandal.

Many clubs in Australia's A-League are struggling financially, and Fifa is targeting Malaysia and Singapore as the source of match-fixing scandals in wealthy European leagues.

Meanwhile, Al Ittihad, the Saudi Arabia giants, were gifted a chance to host the Asian Champions League final when the draw was made yesterday.

But first they must beat South Korean title-holders FC Seoul and either ACL debutants Cerezo Osaka or 2006 winners Jeonbuk Motors to reach the decider.

The winners of that second semi-final will host the final on either November 4 or 5.