AFC reports on football's further progress in Asia

The Asian Football Confederation's 2005 Extraordinary Congress was opened in Marrakech, Morocco, yesterday, by president Mohamed Bin Hammam. The AFC's chief guests were from the world football body, FIFA: supremo Joseph Blatter, general secretary Urs Linsi and honorary president Joao Havelange, AFC Media reported.

In his report to the Congress, Bin Hammam listed the AFC’s achievements since the last gathering and said that the ‘Vision Asia’ team would “continue its hard work in China and turn its attention to Indonesia and India”.

”These countries alone comprise 70 percent of our population and the Bangladeshi and Vietnam Federations have also proved to be keen partners and our joint efforts will bear fruits next year,” said Bin Hammam.

A comprehensive grassroots and youth policy was also on the cards, Bin Hammam informed the assembly. “Caring for grassroots is caring for the future and everyone needs a solid foundation,” said Bin Hammam. “A country without youth development is a country without foundation.”

He announced the launch of the first AFC Women’s Club competition and the first AFC Futsal Club competition next year.

The AFC chief pointed out the continent’s growing strength in the sport and gave the example of Japan’s victory over Greece in the Confederations Cup, proceeding to congratulate the four World Cup qualifiers – Iran, Japan, Korea Republic and Saudi Arabia.

”The 2004 Asian Cup in China was our most commercially successful event to date,” said Bin Hammam to wide applause. “The TV ratings in China for the final between the hosts and Japan exceeded those of the 2002 FIFA World Cup and the 2004 European Championships.”

“Our revenue has jumped to $210 million, with an average of more than $26 million per year. But remember that this revenue is only from limited markets in Asia. There is definitely room for improvement.”

Bin Hammam welcomed the diversity afforded by European football clubs touring Asia but said the “excessive support” for foreign football was damaging the Asian game. “It is your duty, your responsibility, to put Asian football first. We must be confident in our product, in our future.”

Towards the end, AFC Executive Committee member Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi proposed Australia’s inclusion as the 46th member and the motion was carried by a voice vote.

Bin Hammam said that Australia’s shift to Asia would benefit football in the continent. “Australia’s huge sports facilities will be at the disposal of Asian football and our standards will increase,” said Bin Hammam.