- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 16, 2009

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (AP) - FIFA president Sepp Blatter has called for discipline and restraint after soccer’s governing body was asked to investigate accusations raised in an increasingly spiteful battle for an Asian seat on its most powerful committee.

FIFA said it had received complaints leveled against both sides ahead of an election May 8 for an Asian seat on its executive committee _ the 24-man body which will decide host countries for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

The two candidates are Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed bin Hammam, who has sat at FIFA’s top table for 13 years, and Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Khalifa, the challenger who runs soccer in Bahrain.

“Football is a universal sport based on the fundamental principles of discipline and respect for opponents and the laws of the game as well as on the spirit of competitiveness and rivalry, underpinned by the values of fair play and ethics,” Blatter said in a statement late Wednesday. “These principles and values must be applied not only on the field of play, but also in the administration and governance of football, particularly in the area of sports politics … this includes elections.”

Blatter said it was his duty “to remind all members of the Asian football community of the importance of these values in the run-up to the election for the vacant Asian seat on the FIFA Executive Committee and of the requirement to respect FIFA’s Statutes, principles and decisions.”

The South Korean soccer association said Wednesday it has formally referred Bin Hammam to FIFA’s ethics committee over perceived threatening remarks against a top South Korean official.

“This was handed over in person by an official from the Korean Football Association,” FIFA spokesman Pekka Odriozola said. “It is currently with our legal department which is examining the content.”

FIFA also received a copy of a letter from Australian ethics panel member Les Murray, reportedly alleging that Shaikh Salman’s supporters have tried to buy votes from Asian confederation members.

Murray wrote that some Asian associations have been offered cash grants to vote against Bin Hammam, the British Press Association reported.

Odriozola said FIFA could not confirm the content of the letter, which was addressed to Ethics Committee acting chairman Petrus Damaseb. Murray could not be reached for comment Thursday in Sydney, Australia, where he works as an expert soccer analyst for the SBS TV network.

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