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Qataris lament FIFA life ban, as Bin Hammam waits to appeal

Qataris lament FIFA life ban, as Bin Hammam waits to appeal

Qataris vow Bin Hammam’s legacy post-scandal will remain as the president of the Asian Football Confederation appeals potential life ban from FIFA.

July 24, 2011 11:46 by

Qataris lamented Mohamed Bin Hammam’s fall from grace on Saturday and said his reputation and legacy as president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) would remain intact.

The 62-year-old Qatari, who has been AFC president since 2002, has been banned for life after world soccer’s ruling body found him guilty of trying to buy votes from the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in May, ahead of last month’s FIFA presidential election—a race he later withdrew from.

“It’s sad for all of Qatar, not just Mohamed,” said Mohammed Johar, 50, head of logistics for the Al Jazeera sports channel in Doha. “He tried to do his best in Asia. The people will remember him very well, not just in Qatar but in Asia and Africa as well. He’s been involved with (football) for so long, his whole life. Banning him is like killing him.”

Fellow Qatari Ahmed Abu Hamra, 18, added: “He doesn’t deserve it. It’s not fair. Of course they would find him guilty, so he’s not a threat (for FIFA’s presidency) in the future.”
Bin Hammam, who has also been on FIFA’s executive committee since 1996, withdrew his presidential candidacy on May 29 and Swiss Sepp Blatter was re-elected unopposed for a fourth term three days later.

Mohammed Salim, 40, added: “FIFA doesn’t want him in football. He has a strong personality and a lot of power. He’s very smart. It was dangerous for them. What he’s done for Asian football in the last five years is amazing. He made things happen there.”

Bin Hammam did not attend the two-day hearing at FIFA headquarters in Zurich held on Friday and Saturday but was represented by two lawyers as his life ban was handed down. At the hearing Bin Hammam was found to have broken seven articles of the organisation’s ethics code including one on bribery, acting head of the committee Petrus Damaseb told reporters.

The multi-millionaire businessman, who has been on FIFA’s executive committee since 1996, has since then vowed to appeal against the suspension. He said he was innocent and the case against him was built upon “lies by senior FIFA officials”.

Former CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) president Jack Warner, a major FIFA powerbroker, resigned in June after he was also accused of wrongdoing at the same meeting in Port of Spain, Trinidad, on May 10-11, the latest scandal to hit soccer’s beleaguered governing body.

Like Bin Hammam, Warner was provisionally banned pending the ethics committee investigation into allegations that Caribbean officials were handed $40,000 each in brown envelopes as a sweetener.

“He rejects the findings and maintains his innocence,” said Eugene Gulland, one of Bin Hammam’s representatives. “He will continue to fight his case through the legal routes that are open to him.
“He has gone on record and maintains the FIFA ethics committee was going to find against him whatever the validity of the case he presented to them.

“The FIFA ethics committee has apparently based its decision on so-called circumstantial evidence which our case has clearly demonstrated was bogus, and founded on lies told by senior FIFA officials,” added Gulland.

“We have not shared our evidence, which is compelling, with the media and FIFA has done exactly the opposite. There appears to be selective and continual leaking of documentation…to the media to influence public opinion and to create bias.”

One ethics committee report was leaked immediately after Warner’s resignation and said it had found “comprehensive, convincing and overwhelming” evidence that the Trinidadian official and Bin Hammam were involved in attempted bribery.

FIFA was also rocked last year when two executive committee members were banned after allegedly offering to sell votes in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting race to undercover newspaper reporters.

Blatter has promised “zero tolerance” against corruption and vowed to set up a new “solutions committee” to act as a watchdog although he raised eyebrows by naming former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Spanish tenor Placido Domingo as possible members.

The 75-year-old Swiss has recently turned against members of his executive committee, saying they are chosen by their respective confederations and he cannot vouch for them.

Blatter was in Argentina, for Sunday’s Copa America final between Uruguay and Paraguay, when the life ban was announced.

Qatar remains the host for the 2022 World Cup.

Bin Hammam must wait several weeks for a full report of the ethics committee’s sentence before he can start his appeal.

He will first have to go to FIFA’s appeals committee and can then take his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. (By Brian Homewood and Regan E Doherty)

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