Call for Asia's World Cup teams to 'honour the fans'

Asian Football Confederation president, Mohammed bin Hammam has called on the region's teams playing in this year's FIFA World Cup to "honour the fans" and win the regard of the international footballl community. "In the context of Asian football’s profile on the world stage, this is the reputation and credibility of Asia,” he said as quoted by AFP. “We say that the 'future is Asia’, and in the past we have claimed that Asia has never been fairly represented in terms of the FIFA World Cup and other international football activities. Therefore, the 2006 FIFA World Cup is the time for us to show what we have in our hands.”

Of Asia's five contestants, Japan and South Korea successfully joint-hosted the last World Cup in 2002 and both teams performed well in front of home fans; Australia is playing in its first World Cup in 32 years; Iran has never progressed beyond the group stages; and Saudi Arabia’s best effort was in 1994 in the United States.

“Obviously there are two scenarios: based on a positive performance, new facts will need to be presented to FIFA to review AFC’s ranking on the world stage,” Hammam said. “Likewise, should we have a negative performance, this is contrary to what we are claiming and we will need to review ourselves. Hopefully this will not happen. All I can say at this stage is that I hope our Asian teams perform in a way to honour the fans in Asia, and to make us proud of our sporting achievements.”

The president said that whatever happened, the popularity of football in Asia will be boosted by the World Cup attention. “In terms of our fans, we already know that football is Asia’s number one sport,” he said. “Saying that, I do think that the popularity and impact of the World Cup will have a positive commercial effect on AFC competitions and on domestic football in Asia in making football more attractive to the commercial sector. This is in terms of both interest and contribution from broadcasters and sponsors.”