Hammam calls on ailing Asian nations to restructure
Alvin Sallay in Berlin
Asian soccer boss Mohammed bin Hammam has called for a major restructuring of leagues and competitions after the region's abysmal showing in Germany.
Hammam, the president of the Asian Football Confederation, criticised Asia's poor competitive structure for the lack of success. All four teams - Japan, South Korea, Iran and Saudi Arabia - failed to make it to the second round.
'It is my belief this defeat is because of poor competition structures, particularly club competitions, both at national and confederation level,' said Hammam. 'We will not see any improvement at the international standard unless we restructure and improve the professionalism in our clubs and in our leagues.
'Our results in Germany, with the exception of Australia, have brought great disappointment to many Asian fans. Everyone was expecting our teams to do much better.'
Hammam, a Qatari, called for Asia's 46 countries to adopt a professional outlook if they hoped to avoid similar disappointments in the future.
'We need to professionalise all aspects of the game, including administration and management, to really create professional leagues comparable with those outside Asia. As the AFC president, this is my focus for our next stage of development. We can achieve this, and this should be Asia's future objective.'
Hammam, however, praised Australia - the AFC's newest members who had qualified through Oceania. The Socceroos made it to the second round.
'A key contributor to their success is most of their team play in very strong leagues,' he said. 'They are well prepared for the high standards at the World Cup. We need to build strong leagues in Asia so our national teams have the same experience to bring to the field in such important competitions.'
Asia has 41/2 berths but there are fears Fifa will cut the quota for 2010 so as to give Africa an extra berth for when South Africa is host of the tournament.
'We say, 'The future is Asia', and in the past we have claimed Asia has never been fairly represented in terms of the World Cup and other international activities,' Hammam said before the World Cup, adding: 'Therefore, it is time for us to show what we have in our hands.'