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Monday, May 21, 2007

AFC Chief Issues Warning

Football fans out there, here's a real hangover after last Saturday's match ...

Asian football chief Mohamed Bin Hammam on Saturday warned of “wide-ranging legal repercussions” if Manchester United visited Malaysia during the Asian Cup, urging the match to be moved to August.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president said he was trying to meet Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on the row after Malaysian officials backtracked on a decision to scrap the July 27 friendly. “The crux of the matter is about honouring an agreement. If there happens to be a breach of agreement, it has wide-ranging legal repercussions,” Mohamed bin Hammam said in an open letter printed by the Malay Mail. “We do not think it is too much to ask for the continent and people of Asia to be exposed to our tournament just for one month. It will be our pleasure if Malaysia were to host the United match in early August,” he added.

Malaysia, one of four Asian Cup co-hosts, last year signed an agreement not to promote other matches 10 days before the July 7-29 Asian Cup and three days afterwards. Officials, under pressure from the AFC and FIFA, cancelled the Manchester United match but later reinstated it following intervention by Prime Minister Abdullah. However, Hammam said there was “room for compromise” and insisted he had never wanted the match axed altogether. “There is room for compromise. We have sought an audience with the prime minister ... We owe it to him to explain our side of the story,” the AFC chief said.

“AFC had never called for the United game on July 27 to be called off. We only want them to reschedule their match,” he added. “This issue is not about AFC against United or Asia versus Europe. All we ask is for the various parties to give us the breathing space to ensure the Asian Cup becomes a resounding success.”

Hammam previously launched a stinging attack on United, calling them “disrespectful” and demanding they scrap their entire tour as it might divert attention from the Asian Cup, the region’s flagship competition. But Abdullah said United’s visit was important for Malaysia as it was in line with a government tourism campaign and celebrations marking 50 years of independence from Britain - AFP.