Friday, October 13, 2006

Thais reassure AFC that new govt backs Asian Cup

Despite the overthrow of the government by military forces last month, Thailand will have no problems co-hosting next year's Asian Cup, a senior Thai soccer official told Martin Petty of Reuters. Chaiyapak Siriwat, deputy president of the Football Authority of Thailand, said the Asian Football Confederation had no reason to worry about the Kingdom's readiness to host the tournament. AFC representatives will visit Bangkok next week to seek reassurances that the new military-backed interim government supports the tournament and money is made available to cover costs and upgrade facilities.

"The AFC is concerned about the political situation and if we still have backing for this tournament, but it will all be fine," Chaiyapak said. "I've spoken to the new minister of sport and he says everything will be as it was before the crisis." Prior to the bloodless military putsch on 19 September, the AFC had threatened to strip Thailand of its staging rights for the tournament with Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia after it failed to meet deadlines for improving its national stadium.

Chaiyapak said funding was now available to complete the necessary work but insisted delays in upgrading the Rajamangala Stadium were not because of Thai football officials dragging their feet."We couldn't help this situation, it wasn't our fault, but now, everything is going good," he said. "We've started doing the work but the political crisis had delayed things. Now, we have no problems with funding. The budget has been approved."

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