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AFC split over shifting base
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Plans to move the Asian Football Confederation headquarters out of Kuala Lumpur have triggered discontent around the continent.

The AFC is dissatisfied with its Malaysian hosts and sources say several cities in the oil-rich Gulf have shown interest in giving the AFC a new home, offering perks Malaysia has refused to grant.

Malaysian soccer officials say the southeast Asian bloc ASEAN and several prominent east Asian nations vehemently oppose a move, fearing loss of commercial revenue and the growing Arab power and influence over Asian soccer.

Azuddin Ahmad, secretary-general of the Football Association of Malaysia, said the AFC belonged in Kuala Lumpur, which has been its home for 43 years.

"The AFC was born in Malaysia, it is the history, there is a sentimental attachment," Azuddin said.

"We are against a move. There is a consensus in countries in ASEAN and a strong feeling on the East Asia side. Everyone is against this.

"People in the Middle East can plant money trees but they can't just elbow us out," he added.

Japanese and Chinese officials would not reveal their stance but sources, requesting anonymity, said complaints had been made privately, some suggesting a possible east-west split if a relocation went ahead.

South Korea said it was against a move because Kuala Lumpur was perfectly located in a region stretching from Jordan to Australia.

"We think it will be a big debate. We are not in favour of moving and we need an explanation about what the decision will be," Ka Sam-hyun, general secretary of the Korean Football Association, said.

"We do not know what the intention of the president of the AFC is and we have to see what the other candidate cities are."

Malaysia and the AFC have been at odds for the last two years over issues including ownership of the land the headquarters is built upon and the FAM's reluctance to reschedule a visit by Manchester United, which fell during the 2007 Asian Cup, the AFC's biggest event. However, the AFC's Qatari president Mohamed Bin Hammam last month said Malaysia would be first given the right of refusal in hosting the body.

"We need terms and conditions we can agree upon and which both parties can commit to," Bin Hammam said on the AFC's website.

"That is the reason we are looking at shifting our headquarters."

Prospective Arab bidders are expected to offer the AFC tax breaks, accommodation for employees and, possibly, diplomatic status. There is widespread speculation that Bangkok and Singapore are also interested in becoming hosts and Bin Hammam has said both are entitled to bid.

(Agencies via Shanghai Daily October 15, 2008)

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