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Malaysia accuses AFC of ´excessive´ demands, rejects bid for HQ

26 October 2008 05:35

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - Malaysia has blamed "excessive demands" from the Asian Football Confederation, including diplomatic status for its top officers, for its refusal to bid to retain the organisation's headquarters.

Malaysia has hosted the AFC's headquarters since 1965, and the country's first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman served as its president for 24 years.

But in July AFC president Mohamed Bin Hammam proposed shifting its base from an impressive eight-year-old facility on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, and invited applications from the confederation's 46 member nations.

The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) said Malaysia will not take part in the bid, rejecting AFC demands which it said included the gifting of land for its headquarters.

It said the regional sporting body had added "insult to injury" by issuing an October 31 deadline to comply with its demands if it wanted the AFC to remain in Malaysia.

"How could officials from a sports body be awarded diplomatic status? AFC is not under the UN, and the president is not a diplomat of any country, so what kind of conditions are these?" FAM general secretary Azzuddin Ahmad told AFP.

"Technically, Malaysia could lose AFC because we will not be part of the bidding process," he said.

"Emotions are running high now because the list of demands have been made public. They are supposed to service member countries in term of developing football in Asia instead of demanding excessively."

Bin Hammam's plan, unveiled during a meeting of the AFC's governing body, has come under fire from Malaysian figures including former AFC general secretary Peter Velappan.

He described the proposal as "a total disrespect to all Malaysian leaders and staff who have worked very hard to develop and promote football in Asia".

Last week AFC submitted a list of demands to Sports Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, which is to be met by month-end if its headquarters is to remain here, the state Bernama news agency reported.

The list included personal tax exemption for non-Malaysian AFC staff, a new office, interest-free loans and diplomatic status for the AFC office-bearers.

Ismail slammed Bin Hammam's move saying "don't threaten us," the Malay Mail newspaper quoted him as saying over the weekend.

"Enough is enough. I don't mind the list of demands but setting a deadline ... that's stretching it," he said.

"We've always been accommodating to both the national and international bodies. But there must be a compromise."

Ties between the FAM and the AFC soured last year when Malaysia decided to invite English Premier League side Manchester United for a friendly match during the Asian Cup tournament.

The AFC strongly criticised Malaysia's plan which it saw as drawing attention away from its premier event, and subsequently the Red Devils dropped their visit.

Malaysia co-hosted the Asian Cup along with Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Azzuddin said the AFC's presence "will only be missed for sentimental reasons" but noted that the president has to secure a 70 percent approval from member countries before relocating the headquarters.

"The development of football here is still the responsibility of FAM. The AFC will still have to play their role to its members without prejudice even if they move out," he said.

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