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Bin Hammam's comments rile Korea, Bahrain

SOUTH Korea's soccer federation yesterday demanded an apology from Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed Bin Hammam for what it interpreted as an insult to one of its top officials.

The Korean Football Association (KFA) said it "strongly denounced" Bin Hammam's comments in Arabic about its president Cho Chung-yun, which it said translated as a threat to cut off his head. Bin Hammam said the comment was a metaphor that had been poorly translated.

"He must offer an open apology for his remarks," KFA spokesman Yoo Young-cheol was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency.

"The KFA strongly denounces (him) for making unutterable and improper remarks (against South Korean officials) in media interviews," he said, adding that the KFA would draft a petition against the president if he failed to retract the comment.

Bin Hammam has accused South Koreans of initiating and bankrolling a campaign led by Bahraini Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa to win the West Asia seat on the FIFA executive committee, which the Qatari has held unopposed since 1996.

He made the contentious comment in an interview at the weekend on Qatari television and issued a statement on Monday saying his comment had been misinterpreted.

"We all know the first thing to be lost in translation is humor," Bin Hammam said. "It is a popular, harmless and widely used Arabic metaphor. It means to halt someone's plans or nip in the bud someone's progress. It is like the English saying 'heads will roll.' That doesn't literally mean someone's head is going to roll off, does it?"

Bahrain's soccer chief has also hit back at Bin Hammam after being accused of leading a clandestine plot to oust the Qatari.

Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa said accusations he was heading a campaign funded by prominent officials keen to topple Bin Hammam were "out of line" and called for fair play in upcoming elections for the FIFA executive committee.

Al Khalifa is running against Bin Hammam for his West Asian place. Defeat for Bin Hammam would seriously undermine his Asian presidency, informed sources say.

Bin Hammam said he would resign as AFC president if he lost his seat on the FIFA executive board.

"It's not fair to have to hear these comments from someone like Bin Hammam," Al Khalifa said.

"His comments are completely untrue and out of line. What I have said so far has been fair and proper. I don't accept comments like this from this person."

The Bahraini blamed the AFC chief for creating disharmony in Asian soccer. "We shouldn't make this personal," he said. "There are difficulties between member associations now because of Bin Hammam's management of football in Asia. I know he's had problems because of how he's run the AFC.


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