POSTED: May 3rd 2011

New Olympic hope for Palestine as angry Thais turn on Asian football bosses

Jibril Rajoub: pressing the sporting case for Palestine / lake images
Jibril Rajoub: pressing the sporting case for Palestine / lake images

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

LONDON/KUALA LUMPUR, May 04: Palestine could be restored to the 2012 Olympic Games football qualifiers after a row over player eligibility which has whipped up a storm within the Asian Football Confederation.

The dispute comes at an embarrasing time just when the AFC president, Qatari Mohamed Bin Hammam, is busy flying all around the world campaigning in support of his qualifications to oust Sepp Blatter next month as FIFA president.

Earlier this year Thailand won 5-4 on penalties - after a 1-1 aggregate draw - against a Palestine side whose presence in the opening round of Asian qualifying was remarkable enough. Their football federation and National Olympic Committee, headed by Jibril Rajoub, have to overcome a string of administrative and political obstacles every time they approach a match.

The first leg ended 1-0 to Thailand in Bangkok and the second leg also 1-0 but this time to Palestine in Ramallah on the West Bank. The subsequent shootout success had, apparently, sent Thailand into the second round where they had been scheduled to face Bahrain home and away on June 19 and 23.

In the first leg against Palestine, however, Thailand had fielded midfielder Sucharit Chanthakul who was under international suspension after having failed to 'play out' a three-game ban imposed during the AFC Under-19 Championships three years ago.

Executive committees

The Thai federation is to appeal but president Worawi Makudi - a member of the executive committee of both world federation FIFA and the AFC 's - has blamed the Bin Hammam-led regional confederation.

Worawi said the match commissioner had omitted to remind both sides of their suspended players. He added: "It was the match commissioner's mistake and not Thailand's." He contended that, in any case, Sucharit had served the ban because he was in the Thai squad at the 2010 Asian Games though he did not play.

The AFC refuted any responsibility, responding that organisation of the Asiad's football tournament was the responsibility of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).

Worawi said this was "unacceptable." Next week he expects to meet Bin Hammam and win his support for an appeal. He added: "We will fight until the end although it is difficult for us to win."

Keywords · London 2012 · IOC · AFC · Olympic football · Thailand · Palestine · Makudi · Bin Hammam · Sucharit Chanthakul

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