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Politics overshadows on-field progress in Asia

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 22, 2012 at 11:09 pm •  Published: December 22, 2012

A year of impressive progress in Asian football on the field, including two semifinal berths at the London Olympics, has been overshadowed by yet more corruption and political infighting off the field.

The Asian football headlines were dominated by Mohamed bin Hammam. The Qatari, who took the post of AFC president in 2002, was found guilty of vote-buying during his challenge against FIFA president Sepp Blatter in 2011 and FIFA's Ethics Committee suspended him from all football activity for life.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned that ban in July but bin Hammam, 63, was then put under provisional bans by both FIFA and AFC as those bodies investigated allegations of financial irregularities during his nine-year tenure. On December 17, he resigned from football and was banned for life by FIFA.

"It has been damaging for Asian football," AFC vice-president Yousef Al-Serkal told The Associated Press. "It is has been unfortunate that something like that happened to the AFC at a time when we are trying to develop and improve the standard of football and that depends on the image and sponsorships of the AFC.

"Such a reputation when it is the concerning the president of the AFC will affect the image negatively. Normally, as we know, big companies as sponsors avoid to be partners with any organization that has such a reputation."

In an interview with the AP in November, bin Hammam still protested his innocence and blamed outside forces.

"The AFC is no longer its own master," said Bin Hammam. "It is now controlled partly by FIFA and partly by the Olympic Council of Asia. These people (at the AFC) believe that FIFA and the OCA are going to either put them in a more powerful position or consolidate their current position."

On the field, the biggest story of 2012 was in China where Shanghai Shenhua made a splash in the transfer market by signing former Chelsea strikers Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka.

The initial excitement was soon overtaken by gloom as the club performed poorly in the Chinese Super League amid constant speculation that the pair would soon return to Europe as a result of a power struggle at the club. As the year nears its end, it is still widely expected that Anelka will leave and Drogba could follow.

Champion Guangzhou Evergrande started China's big spending in 2011 and restated their ambitions in mid-season by hiring 2006 World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi.

Philippe Troussier, who led Japan to the second round at the 2002 World Cup, now leads a team in China's second division and believes that signing big-name stars is not the only way for success.

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