Sunday, August 7, 2011

Bin Hammam, Rajoub and....Nepal?

On July 26th, MBC's pan-Arab football program Sada alMala'eb hosted Mohammed Awada, editor-in-chief of Qatari sports magazine Staad alDawha(Doha Stadium). On the topic of Bin Hammam's FIFA ban, Awada said that the former AFC head was sold out by 'friends'. Asked by Mustafa Agha to name names, he casually hints at an FA that was allowed to play matches at home after years of not being able. Agha asks if its Hussein Sa'eed, head of the Iraq FA. Awada replies that there is another country, referring to Palestine and Jibril Rajoub. (Transcript). Awada had originally pointed the finger at Rajoub in this piece.

Whether or not there are any grounds to his claims, Awada's comments suggest there might have been a conflict between Rajoub and Bin Hammam, giving Rajoub a motive to target the latter's career. While we don't have any inside sources or investigative tools at our hands, we can at least try to connect the dots.

Palestine was in the running to host the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup along with Nepal and the Maldives. On July 29th, Nepal was chosen to host the event.

In its current post-Bin Hammam phase, the AFC is doing some restructuring to undo years of possible corruption and mismanagement. As James Dorsey reports for Al-Arabiya, a 'dismantling of Bin Hammam's legacy' is in effect. Among other issues, the Nepal hosting decision was brought into question:

"Jordanians who played in Nepal earlier this month described the pitch as a dirt field and the countries facilities as abysmal.
An AFC inspection team evaluating Nepal’s bid to host the Cup, much as what happened with FIFA’s evaluation of Qatar, advised against awarding the tournament to Nepal and in favor of its competitors, Palestine and the Maldives.
The AFC’s competition committee, headed by Yousuf al-Serkel, a UAE national and ally of Mr. Bin Hammam, backed the Nepali bid despite the inspection report, the sources and Mr. Velappan said.
Sources close to the AFC deliberations said Mr. Thapa as a member of the executive committee had acted improperly by lobbying the organization to ignore the inspectors’ report and award the hosting of the Cup to his country."

Interesting. Even though the AFC inspection team advised against Nepal being given hosting privileges, they were chosen anyways. If there was indeed corruption, the people behind it would definitely have crossed Mr. Rajoub as it came at Palestine's(and the Maldives) expense.

While we cannot say for sure that there was corruption in the AFC competition committee, or that Rajoub had something to do with Bin Hammam's downfall, this all does make for an interesting narrative.