By Paul Nicholson
October 22 – FIFA President Gianni Infantino, on tour in Asia on his way to the FIFA Council meeting in China later this week, has caused controversy in Mongolia following a secret meeting with former Mongolian FA president Ganbold Buyannemekh who was banned by FIFA’s ethics committee for five years in 2014 for soliciting and accepting bribes.
Infantino was in Mongolia to mark the 60th anniversary of the Mongolian Football Federation (MFF) and was welcomed by current president Ganbaatar Amgalanbaatar, visiting the MMF’s headquarters and training centre.
He also met Mongolian President Khaltmaa Battulga, and lunched with the speaker of Mongolia’s parliament, Gombojav Zandanshatar.
Infantino’s meeting with Buyannemekh only came to light following posts on social media.
Infantino met with Buyannemekh before making his way to the official MFF reception for which he was late. He excused his late arrival by claiming that he had been stuck in traffic.
Buyannemekh’s five-year ban began 15 October 2014. He met with Infantino two days after his ban was complete.
Buyannemekh’s ban related to payments from Mohamed bin Hammam, the former president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) during his campaign for the FIFA presidency in 2011 and election to the executive committee in 2009.
A FIFA statement read: “The adjudicatory chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee, chaired by Hans-Joachim Eckert, has decided to ban the President of the Mongolian Football Federation, Ganbold Buyannemekh, from taking part in any kind of football-related activity at national and international level for a period of five years.
“Mr Buyannemekh solicited and accepted payments [from Mr Mohamed bin Hammam] in the context of the elections for the FIFA Executive Committee at the AFC Congress in 2009 as well as the FIFA presidential election in 2011.”
FIFA was asked whether they had any comment on the president’s meeting in Mongolia with Buyannemekh and whether he is he supporting Buyannemekh for a return to the Mongolian federation’s leadership.
FIFA replied: “We have no comment as we don’t recognise credibility or journalistic status to a website which is subsidised by PR companies with propagandistic objectives.
“You can quote a FIFA spokesperson.”
An interesting response in FIFA’s self-proclaimed new era of openness and transparency but not one that answered the question. We think they really meant no comment.
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