By Andrew Warshaw
April 8 – Asian football leaders are becoming increasingly concerned over individual member federations being suspended by FIFA because of government interference in their affairs, a trend they warn is seriously hindering development in the region.
This week, an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) taskforce met in Kuala Lumpur to discuss persistent intrusions in the running of national associations, which has led to both Kuwait and Indonesia being banned.
“Our Member Associations (MAs) are being punished for actions which are outside their control,” Mariano V. Araneta Jr, who chaired the meeting, said in a statement. “It is not that the members have broken the rules but they are suspended because of the decisions taken by their governments.
“It is extremely damaging for the members, who are not only banned from playing international football but also lose their grassroots funding.
“Development is being hugely affected in these MAs through lost income from their sponsors, as well as funding from the AFC and FIFA. This, in turn, leads to staff losses and cancelled projects.”
Indonesia were banned in June last year by FIFA over a dispute between the country’s sports ministry and local football association (PSSI) over who was actually in charge of the domestic game. Kuwait were punished in October and missed out on a place in the next round of the World Cup draw.
Kuwait’s influential sports leader Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah is a member of the FIFA executive committee even though his own country is currently banned. The Gulf state was barred from voting in February’s FIFA presidential election and the issue is expected to be raised at next month’s FIFA Congress in Mexico.
In many Asian and African countries, the running of sport has long been intrinsically linked with state control (often through the support of government Olympic programmes) but Araneta says greater efforts need to be made to stop direct state interference – and ensure the growth of football is maintained. He wants FIFA to continue providing grassroots support.
“We need to support these MAs to make sure their football does not fall behind,” Araneta said. “We also need to take all possible steps to avoid third-party intervention.”
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