Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Drama at Ritz Carlton
Snooping around...that's what Malay Mail sports journalists did those days, sniffing around for scoops while others attended Press conferences. We had three options usually, either make our presence felt by asking loaded questions in front of others, hang around to speak to sources on the sidelines or do both!
At Ritz-Carlton a short while ago, I went for the second option, having kept quiet when Peter Velappan, prone to committing social faux pas, said: "Let's make Hammam go back to the desert on his birthday" which drew the ire of a few Arab journalists in attendance.
Former AFC media man Dr Mohamed Awada was quick to protest and he demanded an immediate apology.
"I come from the desert and that is an insult to us," he exclaimed.
Velappan, realising the impact if the remarks were to be misconstrued by the media, duly apologised. But it did not stop there. While having an interview outside Cobalt 3 room, Velappan wanted to clarify to Awada that he was merely echoing Hammam's words as the Qatari tycoon was once quoted as saying "he's from the desert"...
"OK, but you need to explain to the media..." said Awada. Again it merely triggered a shouting match, with Awada accusing Velappan of using black magic and the former FAM assistant secretary calling the Lebanese "terrorist"! The verbal judo was witnessed by the hotel staff and a number of journalists as the AFC delegates were having a pre-Congress meeting chaired by Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, who could well be the acting AFC president come May 9, at a nearby room.
Earlier during the PC, Velappan, general secretary of AFC from 1978 to 2006, was asked in what capacity was he speaking from and whether he was interested in making a comeback to AFC.
"You think I'm crazy to go back to work at the age of 74?", adding that he was speaking in his personal capacity and as someone who had worked hard half his life to make AFC what it is today.
"I do not wish to see the AFC House which we worked hard to build be relocated. For 50 years AFC leaders worked to create harmony and unify all members but in came Hammam and he dismantled whatever that had been built.
"Sure he did a good job for the first four years with the AFC Champions League and the Vision Asia project but what did he do for the last three years?"
"As someone in the thick of the action leading to the AFC House being built in Kuala Lumpur in 2000, I cannot accept the headquarters being moved elsewhere just because Hammam has problems or issues with certain individuals!"
The relocation of the AFC House is on the agenda, Agenda 13 to be exact, on Friday, May 8, which co-incides with Mohamed Hammam's 60th birthday.
The drama occured as Bahrain FA president Sheikh Salman Ebrahim Al-Khalifa campaigns hard to unseat Hammam, whom Velappan brought in to challenge Sultan Ahmad Shah in 2002, from the FIFA executive committee.