Blatter on professionalism and other Asian issues

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has echoed the recent comments by Asian Football Confederation president Mohammed Bin Hammam urging greater professionalism to help football grow in the region. He said clubs needed to understand that they must be run as commercial entities and called on national associations to show better leadership.

"The problem of professionalism in leadership at the level of national associations and the clubs ... is a general problem and not just in Asia," he told AFP news agency.

"If you look at the big European associations, the best leadership is in the clubs because they are professionals and they are organised. But you don't have the professional governance in the national associations or even in the leagues. The clubs are commercial entities and they have to be organised or they will not work."

He said Asian football did not yet compare to the “good leagues in Europe” adding it is “a question of investment and you have to try and bring clubs towards this."

He emphasised that corruption must be tackled and leagues must be wary of trying to grow too quickly. "Football is a game and in a game there is gambling and gambling is naturally cheating but this is a matter for national associations," he said.

"They have to control that but it is difficult the bigger an association is. Can you imagine it in China with 1.3 billion people. In China the development of football has come too fast in consideration of the culture of the Chinese. When you see the economic development and the political development, it came in steps. Football came in and tried to change everything in one day."

Blatter suggested that the FIFA "For the Good of the Game Task Force" will help Asia address these problems and issues such as the behaviour of players and agents and the continued interference by some governments into the running of football in their countries.

"There are more good activities in football then cheating, corruption and doping but these are subjects I have mentioned before and we have to go and look at that and we have started to work on it," he said.

Asian Player of the Year

The FIFA chief commented on AFC rules only allowing those attending the awards ceremony to be eligible to win an Asian football award. "To say we will not give the award to players who play outside Asia, then you must say we will only give an award to the best Asian player in Asia,'' he said in an interview published by the China Post (19 Dec).

"You should make sure that when the award is given that the player is able to be present,'' Blatter added. "Not then to say we don't give it to him if he's not coming.''

On splitting the AFC

Blatter rejected speculation that the entry of Football Federation Australia into the AFC will cause an east-west split in the confederation. The AFC headquarters is in Malaysia, but the region has two diverse powerbases, in the Middle East and in Japan and South Korea.

"I cannot see that Asia will split, it's not the agenda," he said, as reported by Shanghai Daily (17 Dec). "AFC is one continent and a very strong one with Australia in”.

Oceania playing Asia

Blatter hinted at the possibility of the top national side in the Oceania Football Confederation playing off against Asia in the 2010 World Cup qualifying competition. Until this year, the winner of the Oceania qualifiers played off against the fifth-place team from the South American qualifying zone.

"I think the solution would be … to have the winner of the Oceania elimination join the winner in an Asian group, to give them access, to have a chance to play and develop football. I don't know if it is a half slot or go and play with Asia. At least, all the 207 national associations must have a chance to try to get into the World Cup," he said

Club World Championships

Blatter confirmed that the FIFA Club World Championship will be held again in Japan in 2006 but has not yet decided on allowing a home team to participate if a Japan club is not the Asian champion.

"This is a very important question because this is the only FIFA competition where the host cannot play," he said as reported by Shintaro Kano in the Daily Yomiuri (17 Dec). "In all the other competitions, FIFA, UEFA whatever, you have the host play. We have to consider that, but then the format of the competition would not be the same if you have eight teams or six teams.

On banning Iran from World Cup

The Peninsular of Qatar (17 Dec) reported that Blatter replied “politics has no place in football” when asked whether Iran should be banned from the World Cup after its president described the Holocaust as “a myth”.

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sparked widespread outrage by describing the Holocaust as “a myth” and several German politicians called for FIFA to expel Iran from next year’s World Cup in their homeland.

"We are not going to enter into any political declarations," Blatter said. “There have been so many rants from heads of states, even in Europe, and we in football, if we entered in such discussions, then it would be against our statues.

"We are not in politics."

See also: Bin Hammam calls for maturity and professionalism (2 Dec)