GENTING HIGHLANDS, Malaysia (AFP) - Former top AFC official Peter Velappan Wednesday labelled a plan to shift the governing body's headquarters out of Malaysia as a "foolish move" that will destroy regional unity.
Asian Football Confederaton President Mohamed bin Hammam has proposed relocating the organisation from its facility on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, and invited applications from the body's 46 member nations.
But Velappan, who served as AFC secretary-general for 30 years and played a key role in securing the land and funds for the headquarters, said the move would backfire.
"It is a foolish move by Bin Hammam. The move is dangerous as it will destroy the unity and solidarity of Asian football," he told AFP.
Velappan said South Korea and Japan opposed the plan, along with some Middle Eastern countries like Kuwait and Bahrain.
"All these guys are against the relocation plan," he said on the sidelines of an international sporting conference.
Velappan, 73, claimed Bin Hammam's move was aimed at punishing Malaysia for inviting Manchester United to play a friendly during the Asian Cup tournament last year.
"He wants to get back at Malaysia for inviting the Red Devils," he said.
The AFC strongly criticised Malaysia's plan which it saw as drawing attention away from its premier event, and Sir Alex Ferguson's team eventually dropped the Kuala Lumpur match from their schedule.
Malaysia co-hosted the Asian Cup along with Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.
Velappan appealed to Qatar, United Arab Emirates and any other likely bidders to withdraw their offers due to Malaysia's historic contribution to the AFC and its strategic geographical position.
Malaysia has hosted the AFC since 1965 and its first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman served as its president for 24 years.
"Malaysia is the epicenter of Asian football. Nobody has complained about having the AFC headquarters in Malaysia," he said, adding that any attempt to move would "destabilise and disintegrate the Asian football family".
"As secretary-general for 30 years and with the support of Malaysian leaders, we have built up the segmented Asia into a truly united Asian family," he said.
He urged the AFC executive committee, which will gather in Shanghai later this month, to reject the proposal.
"I hope the executive committee members will reject the proposal and not take it to the congress next year as it will create divisions which will be detrimental to the unity and growth of Asian football," he said.
Velappan also urged AFC members to show their displeasure by not re-electing Bin Hammam for another term in 2011.
"The AFC should not be subject to the whims and fancies of a leader who is lacking the sensitivities of Asian football. I would like to see Bin Hammam challenged," he said.
Velappan believes that the Qatari, who took over in 2002, was ultimately eyeing the post of FIFA president.
"This is his ultimate aim. He is going for Sepp Blatter's job. Bin Hammam has told Blatter that he should not overstay. But it will be a futile attempt as there are other, better candidates," he said.
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