Saturday, July 07, 2007

AFC to ban foreign tours during Asian Cup 2011

Asian Football Confederation President Mohamed bin Hammam has confirmed he plans to work with UEFA to implement a ban on teams touring the continent during the Asian Cup 2011. This year's Asian Cup preparation was overshadowed by English Premier League champions Manchester United’s commercial tour plans which overlapped the AFC's tournament. United were forced to cancel one of the four matches, in Kuala Lumpur, because the Football Association of Malaysia, a Cup co-host, had contracted not to hold any other football games during the course of the Asian Cup finals. However United’s other games in Japan, South Korea and Macau will go ahead, as will the Peace Cup in South Korea and the Barclays Asia Trophy in Hong Kong this month.

“Yes, it is feasible,” he said when asked by AFP if a total ban was possible on European teams touring the region during the 2011 finals. “We will be in discussions, either (to ban tours) in the 16 countries participating in the finals or all of Asia. It will be discussed and settled by the end of this year. It is a priority issue to be discussed. I will seek understanding between the Asian confederation and UEFA and all major leagues in Europe to protect the month of the Asian Cup in 2011.

"We have two windows to organise our competition. It is the calendar FIFA has drawn up. We cannot organise our competition unless it is in June or July or January, when many European leagues have a break. We respect this calendar and we are expecting understanding from the major clubs in Europe and the major leagues in Europe, so I don’t think we will be having any problems in 2011. We are going to resolve it well in advance.”

Qatar is the only nation to have lodged a bid to host the 2011 finals after Iran and India pulled out. Given the searing heat in the Gulf state in June and July, January would be the only feasible time to hold the competition. This raises the prospect of a club versus country row with the English Premier League not breaking for winter. Bin Hammam, though, said he was not concerned. “No, not at all because this is part of the FIFA calendar that we can organise the competition in January, with the support of the major leagues in the world.”

Bin Hammam also expressed confidence in Qatar's bid for the 2011 event - the only candidate to apply. He told Xinhua that the selection process could be thrown open again if the Executive Committee is not satisfied with the quality of the application. "If the Executive Committee is not happy with Qatar's bid on July 29 then we will throw it open again, but so far we are happy. If the Executive Committee is not happy with the presentation then Qatar should be hosts, or if the Executive Committee has doubts or are not happy with Qatar's bid, then we will have no alternative but to open up to other countries to bid. I do believe that Qatar will pass on July 29," the former President of the Qatar Football Association said.

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