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20th AFC Congress in Kuala Lumpur
Bin-Hammam has unanimously been elected as the new President

Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar has unanimously been elected as the new President of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), while Dr.Chung Mong Joon of Korea Republic remains the FIFA Vice-President.

Thailand's Worawi Makudi and Japan's Junji Ogura have been returned as AFC representatives on the FIFA Executive Committee following elections held at the 20th AFC Congress in Kuala Lumpur on 14 August. In the three-way battle for the two AFC seats on the FIFA Executive Committee, Worawi and Ogura each garnered 25 votes to edge out Yusef Al Serkal of the United Arab Emirates, who had 23 votes.

Worawi has served on the FIFA Executive Committee since 1997 while Ogura has been elected to the position for the first time. The other Asian incumbent on the FIFA Executive Committee, Saudi Arabia's Abdullah Al Dabal, withdrew from the election.

FIFA President Blatter attended the AFC Congress

FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, who attended the 20th AFC Congress, has indicated in Kuala Lumpur that Asia will receive four and a half slots for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. Blatter said that Oceania would likely gain a direct entry for the first time in World Cup history in four years' time.

"For 2006, we will have 31 slots for distribution unlike 29 at this year's World Cup. One of the free slots should go to a confederation who have not had a direct entry previously, which is Oceania. They have had a half slot previously, so if you take the four slots that Asia had and add the half slot previously given to Oceania, you don't have to be a mathematician to see what shall be done," said Blatter, who added that he could not make any firm promises until the next FIFA meeting. The FIFA President said that a final decision on the allocation would be made at the FIFA Executive Committee meetings on 17 and 18 December 2002 in Madrid.

This year, co-hosts Korea Republic and Japan were automatic qualifiers while two and a half slots were given to AFC through a qualifying campaign. China and Saudi Arabia made it through the Finals while Iran lost to the Republic of Ireland in a play-off. In 1998, Asia were given three and a half slots when France hosted the World Cup. AFC President Bin-Hammam has pushed for FIFA to allocate five spots to Asia following the success of Korea Republic and Japan at the recent World Cup. Korea Republic became the first Asian team to qualify for the semi-finals while Japan made it through to the second round.

New AFC President gets down to serious business

Bin Hammam wasted no time in getting down to the serious business of putting Asian football on the fast track to excellence.

In his closing address at the Congress, Hammam informed the delegates from 44 national associations of the decision to suspend the development fund program. He also outlined his vision for Asian football development to the delegates at the Congress.

He said that the program begun in 1996 and involving 26 national associations had failed to yield the desired results. "We provided coaches and youth development personnel, paid the salary of an executive secretary while furnishing the offices with modern equipment.

"This program cost us US$25,000 per year. But the results have been unsatisfactory. On the recommendation of the AFC Technical and Development Fund Committee, we have decided to suspend the program.

"We will appoint a strategic study group to investigate the status of all national associations under this program and formulate a new development plan which will ensure that the financial assistance generates maximum benefits for football development," he declared.

"We will divide the continent into four zones and will hire development officers for each zone. They will operate from a central base at the AFC headquarters in Kuala Lumpur and will be assisted by development officers in each national association.

"Development officers for different activities as youth, referees, administration, marketing and media will also be recruited. The task is huge but essential," he said.

Hammam also informed the Congress that he would work closely with all other Confederations to ensure such a relationships yields benefits for Asian football.

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