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Saturday, May 2, 2015

AFC’s Salman re-elected amid renewed corruption and governance questions

Sheikh Salman with Alex Soosay in Bahrain

By James M. Dorsey

Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa has been elected president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) for a second term and vice president of world soccer body FIFA amid unanswered questions about the AFC’s handling of corruption investigations and his apparent failure to enforce good governance in his own organization as well as among its members.

In an indication of the AFC’s apparent weak adherence to standards of propriety, the group decided to move the congress at which Sheikh Salman was re-elected from Kuala Lumpur to Bahrain, the candidate’s home country, even before it became clear that he would not be challenged in the election.

The move appeared to be a an attempt to shine a positive spotlight on a regime that brutally suppressed a popular uprising in 2011 and has since been marred by a crackdown on opposition and persistent allegations of torture and other violations of human rights by officials that include top sports executives. The omnipotence of Bahrain’s intelligence service was recently highlighted when it barred a scholar entry because he had been interviewed by Al Jazeera despite appeals by senior government representatives who had invited him.

The AFC’s non-transparent, manipulative politics were on display at the Bahrain congress, reaffirming former AFC general secretary Peter Velappan’s assessment in 2011 that “there is no democracy in AFC.” Sheikh Salman prevented Korean football association president Chong Mong-gyu from expressing criticism of gerrymandering of elections for Asian representatives in FIFA’s executive committee that ensured that Kuwaiti Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah, one of the most powerful figures in international sports, won the seat that could position him for a candidacy for president of the world soccer body in 2019. Sheikh Salman argued that such criticism would assault the AFC’s integrity and respect.

Similarly, FIFA president Sepp Blatter was allowed to address the congress as well as a gala dinner but his challengers in next month’s FIFA presidential elections were not. In his speech, Mr. Blatter commended Sheikh Salman for his stewardship of the Asian body, particularly his “cleaning up” of the AFC in the wake of a massive corruption scandal involving disgraced former AFC president and FIFA vice president Mohammed Bin Hammam. “I made a request to speak to the congress. I was allowed to speak at (European soccer body) UEFA but not here,” Jordanian Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, the frontrunner among Mr. Blatter’s opponents, told World Football Insider.

It took the AFC four days to respond to assertions video-taped and made in writing to a FIFA security officer by the group’s finance director, Bryan Kuan Wee Hoong, that he had been asked by general secretary Dato Alex Soosay to “tamper or hide any documents” related to him during corruption investigations in 2012. In an emailed response to the Malay Mail, the AFC said that it had taken note of the joint disclosure of Mr. Kuan’s statements on this blog and in the Malay newspaper and was “currently seeking to assess the veracity of these allegations.” Mr. Soosay figured prominently at the Bahrain congress sitting on the dais next to Sheikh Salman.

Sources close to the AFC said that the AFC had to date not contacted FIFA security officer Michael John Pride who had taped Mr. Kuan’s statement and taken his written testimony. Similarly, Mr. Kuan, who was involved in the administering of the Bahrain vote, has yet to be asked to produce his statements and explain what had happened. Alex Philips, an official of UEFA who has been seconded to the AFC, did however ask Malay Mail executive editor Haresh Deol for a copy of the tape.

A source close to the AFC said the request was “part of the process of checking that the tape is authentic and being able to view the tape.” Asked what the AFC would do once the tape had been authenticated, the source said: “We’ll have to see.” Some sources close to the AFC and the investigations three years ago into AFC’s management expressed scepticism that the group would act on the evidence.“  The AFC will not ask any questions or look into it as they want the story to pass as soon as possible,” one of the sources said.

The AFC’s delayed and non-committal response may have much to do with the fact that Sheikh Salman has effectively buried a 2012 audit by PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC) that warned that the AFC could be held liable for payments made by a shareholder of Singapore-based World Sports Group (WSG) to Mr. Bin Hammam in advance of the signing of a $1 billion master rights agreement. 

The audit said the AFC may have been used to launder money, and could have breached sanctions against Iran and North Korea. PwC advised the AFC to seek legal counsel on the possibility of filing a civil complaint or criminal charges against Mr. Bin Hammam and on whether it could renegotiate or cancel the WSG contract.

It said that Mr. Soosay had authorized related payments. “Our transaction review revealed that items sampled were, in most cases, authorised by the General Secretary or Deputy General Secretary and the Director of Finance. As signatories these parties hold accountability for the authorisation of these transactions.  We also note the Internal Audit and Finance Committees were aware of this practice,” the PwC report said.

Malaysian police sources told the Malay Mail that the police had been asked by the attorney general to submit by May 13 a report on the alleged theft of documents from the AFC’s Kuala Lumpur headquarters. Mr. Kuan had reported the theft days after he recorded his statements regarding Mr. Soosay’s alleged request. The sources said they hope Mr. Kuan’s statements would further their investigation. Malay Mail executive editor Haresh Deol was interviewed by police on Thursday.

“A new IO (investigating officer) is working on this case. The file was passed to him two weeks ago and he must submit the papers to the deputy public prosecutor's office by May 13. With this new lead, there could be a possibility of calling up the parties concerned in the video to facilitate investigations,” the Malay Mail quoted a police source as saying. Kuala Lumpur prosecution unit head Suhaimi Ibrahim confirmed to the Mail that police were investigating.

Speaking to Agence France Presse, Mr. Soosay, who earlier denied Mr. Kuan’s assertions, insisted that "the case is closed. It was thoroughly done and dealt with and Bin Hammam was suspended.” Mr. Soosay claimed that Mr. Kuan’s statements had been deliberately leaked in advance of the AFC election. "It's completely, I don't know, all of a sudden taken out of context. It's election fever. But there's nothing to worry about, there's no concern. It's dealt with," he said.

Pointing to multiple unanswered questions, particularly as a result of the latest revelations, Mr. Deol asked in a column in response to the AFC statement: “I would like to know if Kuan had lodged a formal complaint to AFC president Sheikh Salman Ibrahim Al Khalifah regarding the matter. If yes, did Salman take any steps to address the issue? After all, his promise, when made president in 2013 was to initiate reforms. Also, shouldn’t Pride have reported it to FIFA?... What about the…revelations made by PwC? There is a lot of explaining to do. We are stakeholders and we demand answers. Silence is not an option.”

The attempted burial of the audit and the AFC’s non-transparent handling of Mr. Kuan’s assertions are noteworthy given the corruption and integrity crisis global that has enveloped soccer governance in the last four years. The squashing of the PwC audit has meant a lack of good governance within the AFC on multiple levels.

In one example, Gaurav Thapa, the son of Ganesh Thapa, who has been suspended by FIFA pending an investigation into corruption charges, was appointed AFC match commissioner despite having been named in the PwC audit as one of numerous recipients of questionable payments by Mr. Bin Hammam. ““All of the Nepalese associations’ affairs are run by Thapa. Everything is handled by his son. We don’t know anything. We just know that he is match commissioner. The Nepalese federation did not nominate him,” said Karma Tsering Sherpa, vice-president and an executive committee member of the All Nepal Football Association (ANFA), in a telephone interview.

Mr. Sherpa together with ANFA vice president Bijay Narayan Manandhar said in a February 15 letter to Robert J. Torres, a member of the ethics committee of FIFA’s investigatory chamber, FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke, and Mr. Soosay that Ganesh Thapa in violation of ANFA’s statutes and despite his suspension was keeping ANFA executives “in the dark” about the group’s affairs, including audits of “unappropriated cash movements” and an ethics committee investigation.

Members of the ANFA board charged this week that Mr Thapa despite his suspension had barred the association’s acting president, Lalit Krishna Shrestha, and general secretary Dhirendra Pradhan from attending the Bahrain congress. The association instead sent Mr. Thapa’s brother in law, Mani Kunwar, who is also a member of the board. Asked whether the fact that he was the only head of an Asian soccer association not to have been nominated for the AFC Congress, Mr. Shrestha said in a telephone interview: “I agree with your logic. We have to compromise. That’s why we sent my friends.”

Mr. Sherpa said Mr. Kunwar had been sent to Bahrain despite the fact that four members of the Nepalese association, including Mr. Sherpa and two other vice presidents had filed a separate complaint to Messrs. Torres, Valcke and Soosay against Mr. Kunwar. In the complaint, they accused Mr. Kunwar of behaviour unbecoming of a national or regional soccer official. The complaint was based on allegation by Mr. Kunwar’s wife in the Nepalese media and a Nepalese court of having been robbed of her belongings by her husband and having been beaten by both Mr. Kunwar and Mr. Thapa’s wife. FIFA and Mr. Soosay have yet to respond to the complaint.

Ironically, the AFC funds Nepalese anti-gender violence NGO Saathi. The NGO has yet to publicly comment on the allegations against Mr. Kunwar and other members of Mr. Thapa’s family.


James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies as Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, co-director of the Institute of Fan Culture of the University of Würzburg and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, and a forthcoming book with the same title.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

HARESH SAYS: When (AFC) silence is not golden

HARESH SAYS: When silence is not golden

As published in Malay Mail today



HARESH SAYS
by Haresh Deol

A SENIOR official claims a senior colleague suggested to “hide or tamper” documents. On any other day, such accusations will warrant a full investigation.

But in the case of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), it was a revelation that was video recorded and presumably kept aside. 

Malay Mail had last Saturday revealed AFC financial director Bryan Kuan Wee Hoong, in a video recording on July 26, 2012, claimed AFC general secretary Datuk Alex Soosay said “protect me” before suggesting “can you tamper or hide documents that relate to me”.

Kuan had, in the video, said the conversation between him and Soosay took place at the AFC House in Bukit Jalil on July 23, 2012, three days before former Fifa investigator Michael John Pride recorded the statement. This was during the 2012 audit by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Kuan refused to talk when contacted last week. Soosay vehemently denied the contents of the video. 
I will not go into the details of the video. Instead, I would like to know if Kuan had lodged a formal complaint to AFC president Sheikh Salman Ibrahim Al Khalifah regarding the matter.

If yes, did Salman take any steps to address the issue? After all, his promise, when made president in 2013 was to initiate reforms.

Also, shouldn’t Pride have reported it to Fifa?

The expose comes as delegates from football associations in Asia select their new committee during the elections in Manama tomorrow.

AFC in an email reply to the writer, said: “The AFC takes note of recent media allegations concerning a case dating from 2012, and is currently seeking to assess the veracity of these allegations.  Any new information will be passed on to the relevant bodies for consideration as appropriate.” 

Former AFC general secretary Datuk Peter Velappan was right to say AFC belongs to national associations in Asia, fans and media. The regional body has to explain what came out from the PwC report. Were the recommendations made by PwC followed through and were any action taken?
Prior to the video, those within and the authorities kept saying the “case is closed”. But no one could explained how they arrived at that decision. 

Former AFC financial director Amelia Gan and her husband Tony Kong Lee Toong were implicated in the theft of missing documents at AFC House. Kong claimed trial on Sept 19, 2012. On Nov 9, 2012, Kong’s lawyer Kamarul Hisham Kamaruddin said prosecutors decided to drop the charge but he did not give any reasons.

Will the Attorney-General’s Chambers explain why it dropped the charge against Kong? Will police now re-investigate the theft claims following the contents of the video?

There is now the presumption the PwC report was done to unseat former AFC president Mohammad Hammam over his alleged corrupt practices. As Hammam was slapped with a life ban from Fifa and quit all football related activities in December 2012, critics believe the report has served its purpose. But what about the other revelations made by PwC?

There is a lot of explaining to do. We are stakeholders and we demand answers. Silence is not an option. 

Declare, don’t deny

Lee Chong Wei’s ban officially ends tomorrow. He is one happy shuttler.

Singapore radio station 938Live had on Monday asked me if the backdated eight-month ban was a “let-off” for the former world No 1. 

I replied Lee went through uncertainty during the period, enough to cause one mental and emotional torture. Also the verdict leaves a black stain on his resume. 

Lee was slapped with the ban after he was found guilty of taking the banned substance dexamethasone. The Badminton World Federation Doping hearing panel, had in its extensive judgment, revealed on Monday: “Stressing ‘the responsibility to act without negligence is the personal obligation of the athlete’, the panel raised questions about Lee’s level of ‘anti-doping education/anti-doping security’, highlighting the athlete put himself at risk by ‘accepting cordyseps for about seven years from a private person without any knowledge or control regarding how the cordyceps have been treated and encapsulated’.”

Lee, at a press conference on Monday, said he took the medicine from his parent. The BWF panel, in its full judgment, revealed Lee has been taking cordyceps since he was 13 “because his mother believed it was beneficial for his health”.

Paragraph 24 of the report read: “In around 2005, the athlete befriended the wife of a very influential man in Malaysia. In around 2007 or 2008, this lady gave the athlete some of her own supply of pure cordyceps. She purchase cordyceps in raw whole form and arranges for it to be powdered and capsulated at the same store in KL. She began to send Lee and her cordyceps capsules on regular basis as a gift.”

The lady, apparently, is a wife of a former minister. A National Sports Institute (NSI) nutritionist was informed about the matter but why wasn’t it red-flagged? Did she simply assume it was “safe” to consume? The capsule could have been contaminated while being manufactured and this is made worse as it is not from a certified pharmaceutical company. Questions are also being raised if the supplement has the necessary approval from the authorities.

Lee will want to quickly forget this episode. But athletes must realise the importance of sharing information and working with the respective support teams including NSI. 

Let’s not sweep this episode under the carpet. Stakeholders must work together and ensure our athletes know what they are consuming. They cannot assume. 

Perhaps a pledge by the national associations and federations could seal their commitment in educating our athletes, in order for them to understand the consequences of taking banned substances.

Lee is blessed he receives good support from the BA of Malaysia and his sponsors. Plenty has been spent, especially in the hiring of Mike Morgan, who represented Lee during the hearing in Amsterdam earlier this month. 

Perhaps Lee could repay his supporters by educating athletes about the importance of declaring what they consume. 

He could use this saga as an example, reminding our future stars that silence or ignorance is not golden.

HARESH is executive editor of Malay Mail. He can be reached atharesh@mmail.com.my or on Twitter @HareshDeol

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Political Violence: Retiring the Word Terrorism



RSIS Commentary is a platform to provide timely and, where appropriate, policy-relevant commentary and analysis of topical issues and contemporary developments. The views of the authors are their own and do not represent the official position of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, NTU. These commentaries may be reproduced electronically or in print with prior permission from RSIS and due recognition to the author(s) and RSIS. Please email: RSISPublications@ntu.edu.sg for feedback to the Editor RSIS Commentary, Yang Razali Kassim. 


No. 101/2015 dated 27 April 2015
Political Violence:
Retiring the Word Terrorism
By James M. Dorsey

Synopsis


Founders of many modern states, including stalwarts of anti-terrorism like Israel and allies in the war on terror like the Kurds, achieved goals with political violence that killed innocent people and would be classified today as terrorism. Political violence should be recognised as a reflection of deep-seated social, economic and political problems -- rather than demonised through terms like terrorism or evil.

Commentary

RECENT DOCUMENTS uncovered by German magazine Der Spiegel trace the rise of the Islamic State to a network of former Iraqi intelligence officers loyal to toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. In 2003 they were deprived of their jobs with no future prospects when then US administrator of Iraq Paul Bremer disbanded the Baathist military and security forces. They were aided by Syrian military officers and officials who saw the group as a buffer against a feared US attempt to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

The history of the rise of the Islamic State as an extreme Sunni Muslim rejection of discrimination by a Shiite majority in Iraq and repressive dominance by an Alawite minority in Syria revives the notion of “one man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist”. That notion is similarly embedded in the policies of both Western nations and conservative Arab regimes concerned about their survival. They not only forged  cooperation with Turkey’s Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) and Syria’s Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) but also Gulf support for the jihadist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al Nusra that is locked in battle with Islamic State and in Western distinctions between good and bad foreign fighters.

Good and bad fighters

‘Bad foreign fighters’, angry at the human and political cost of combatting political violence with a military rather than a predominantly political campaign, are the thousands who have joined the ranks of Islamic State; ‘good foreign fighters’ are those who have gone to Syria to fight with the Kurds against the jihadists, particularly during last year’s battle for the besieged Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani.

The notion is also evident in the US National Intelligence’s most recent report to Congress that for the first time in years no longer includes Iran or the Tehran-backed Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah as a terrorist threat to US interests.

The list of internationally - recognised political leaders who can trace their roots to political violence and terrorism is long. Yet, they and their predecessors disavowed what is termed political violence once they achieved their goals. The list includes Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, whose ideological roots like those of former Israeli leaders Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, lie in the use of political violence and terrorism in pre-state Palestine without which the State of Israel most likely would not have been established. Both Begin and Shamir were wanted commanders of Irgun, a group denounced as terrorist by the British Mandate authorities.

Similarly, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hails from a movement that was long condemned as a terrorist organisation. While nothing justifies the killing of innocent civilians, recognition of Palestinians as a people with national rights and the creation of the Palestine Authority would most probably not have occurred without Palestinian attacks in the 1960s and 1970s on civilian targets.

Finally, the PKK, an organisation deemed terrorist by Ankara and its Western allies as well as its Syrian counterpart, the YPG, are de facto allies in the fight against Islamic State, the jihadist organisation that controls a swath of Syria and Iraq that employs brutality as a means of governance. The list is far longer: think of Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC), the aging leaders of Algeria or the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

The sole common denominator of all these examples is not an ideology but a political grievance and a belief, right or wrong, that the odds were stacked against them and that violence was a necessity rather than a goal in and of itself. Political violence is a tactic most often employed and frequently with success by those opposed to forces with overwhelming military might.

A moment of lucidity

All of these men and groups who today are either respected political leaders or on their way to returning to the international fold saw political violence as a means of the underdog to secure their perceived rights and right an injustice rather than as a criminal philosophy and practice implicit in the use of the word terrorism.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, in a moment of lucidity, implicitly recognised the underlying politics when he last year acknowledged that American Muslims had stressed to him that the absence of an Israeli-Palestinian peace was fuelling anger on the streets and recruitment by Islamic State. “People need to understand the connection of that … it has something to do with humiliation and denial and absence of dignity,” Kerry said.

All of this is not to justify the use of political violence, the killing of innocent civilians or the extremist ideology and brutality of groups like Islamic State. Nor does it justify the indiscriminate torture of large numbers or mass rapes of women as a means of control. It is, however, recognising a political reality however unpleasant that may be.

Debunking de-politicisation

That reality involves acknowledging political violence for what it is and debunking efforts to depoliticise the roots of political violence that only serve to evade often painful political choices involved in confronting underlying grievances. It also involves accepting that it is politics, rather than military force and law enforcement, that offers the tools to effectively resolve situations that produce political violence.

It also serves to spotlight the fact that terms like ‘terrorism’ and ‘fighting evil’ turn the struggle against political violence into a zero-sum game in which victory constitutes the elimination of barbarians who, with problems unresolved, bounce back from setbacks in new, far more brutal guises.

Bombastic statements by Western leaders designating political violence termed terrorism, particularly in the case of jihadists, as an existential threat and an epic struggle against a form of totalitarianism comparable to that of fascism and communism, has only served to raise the profile and appeal of brutal perpetrators like Islamic State. The numbers speak for themselves: University of Maryland research shows that jihadist attacks had tripled in 2013 compared to 2010.

Political violence may be a scourge, yet it is fundamentally an act of politics. Recognising this makes politics rather than predominantly military force the appropriate response. A first step towards that recognition would be removing the term terrorism from the debate in a bid to eliminate ideological prejudice that serves vested interests and at best complicates the search for real solutions to real problems.



James M. Dorsey is a Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, a syndicated columnist, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog.

Click HERE to read this commentary online.

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Velappan questions why probe video was not reported (JMD quote in Malay Mail)



By Haresh Deol

KUALA LUMPUR — A former Asian Football Confederation (AFC) stalwart has questioned why the “tamper or hide” allegations by a senior AFC official during an internal audit in 2012 were not highlighted and investigated. 


Datuk Peter Velappan, who served as AFC general secretary from 1977 to 2007, said the allegations by AFC financial director Bryan Kuan Wee Hoong were “shocking” and had “serious implications on the integrity” of the regional body.

A video interview by Fifa investigator Michael John Pride which was obtained by Malay Mail last week, had Kuan claiming AFC general secretary Datuk Alex Soosay told him “protect me” before asking “can you tamper or hide documents that relate to me?”

The video was recorded on July 26, 2012. Kuan met Soosay three days earlier at the latter’s office at AFC House in Bukit Jalil.

Soosay vehemently denied the contents of the video when contacted by Malay Mail on Wednesday, saying it was an attempt to smear him. The former Negri Sembilan footballer is in Bahrain for meetings ahead of the AFC elections on April 30.

“Why didn’t the party concerned raise this matter with the (AFC) president?” asked Velappan.

He said Kuan and Pride were duty bound to report the matter to the relevant parties. 

“It will then be up to Fifa and AFC to investigate the allegations. For a financial director to make such claims is shocking and serious.”

Velappan, 80, said there were processes to address such matters. 

“If the matter had been highlighted to the AFC president, he would have instructed the executive committee to look into the matter. The committee would then be able to instruct the ethics committee to conduct an inquiry.

“It is clear no one knew about the video up until now,” he said.

Velappan stressed AFC had an obligation to inform its stakeholders about the findings of any inquiry or investigation, including the 2012 internal audit by PriceWaterhouse Coopers (PwC).

“I hear the word ‘case closed’ often but what were the grounds and how did the authorities, including AFC, come to that decision? AFC represents football in Asia. The national FAs, officials, fans and the media need to know.

“Recommendations were made by PwC. Have they been followed through? There must be an internal investigation and those accountable should be made known along with what action, if any, has been taken,” he said.

It is learnt the video was never submitted to Fifa. In an email reply to Malay Mail last week, Fifa said: “We kindly suggest you to direct your enquiry to AFC.”

Veteran journalist James Dorsey, an authority in world football, had quoted sources in his blog mideastsoccer.blogspot.com as saying: “The statements (by Kuan) were made, the sources said, in case questions (regarding) Soosay’s alleged request for the documents were posed.

“In his written declaration, Kuan said that ‘this statement made accurately by me sets out the evidence that I would be prepared, if necessary, to provide to a football governing body and court as a witness.’

“The sources said Kuan had discussed Soosay’s July 23 request with (former AFC staff) James Johnson who, according to the video, was present during the recording of Kuan’s statement by Pride. 

“Kuan said he made his written and video-taped statements on the advice of Johnson,” the blog posting read.

Dorsey, who broke the story on the PwC findings, quoted an AFC executive committee member as saying: “The audit’s purpose was to deal with Hammam. It served its purpose. It’s been buried.”

The video was taped during the 2012 PwC audit initiated by AFC to address alleged corrupt practices by former AFC president Mohammad Hammam.

On July 31 the same year, AFC lodged a police report claiming documents — bank reports and statements linked to Hammam — were missing from AFC House in Bukit Jalil. 

The missing documents related to a US$2 million (RM7.23 million) payment in 2008 by International Sports Event, one of three World Sport Group shareholders. The other two shareholders are Lagardere Unlimited and Dentsu.

Bukit Aman Commercial Crime Investigation Department confirmed Soosay had, in a police report on Aug 17, 2012, alleged Hammam had embezzled nearly US$10 million (RM36.17 million). The case was later classified as NFA (no further action).

The ‘tamper or hide’ video leak comes as AFC president Sheikh Salman Ebrahim Al Khalifa is expected to be re-elected at the AFC congress on April 30 in Bahrain. Sheikh Salman is the only candidate for the post and will automatically also become Fifa vice-president.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Alleged AFC cover-up effort highlights Asian soccer’s lack of proper governance


By James M. Dorsey

A senior executive of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) allegedly requested in 2012 at least one of his subordinates to tamper with or hide documents related to enquiries by independent auditors and FIFA into management of the group by Mohammed Bin Hammam, the AFC’s ousted president and vice president of the world soccer body, according to claims made by a subordinate in two statements and sources with first-hand knowledge close to the Kuala Lumpur-based group.

The official who reportedly requested the tampering or hiding of documents bearing his name or signature, AFC general secretary, Dato' Alex Soosay, subsequently alleged in a police report on Aug 17, 2012, that Mr. Bin Hammam had embezzled some $10 million, the Malaysian Commercial Crime Investigation Department (JSJK) told the Malay Mail. The police handed the case over to the Malaysian attorney general who decided not to take further action.

Mr. Soosay this week vehemently denied the alleged cover up in a telephone conversation with the Malay Mail as he was boarding a flight from Dubai to Bahrain. “If there was something, wouldn't they have investigated me? This is just a smear (campaign) against me. There is no such thing, “Mr. Soosay said.  "Where is this coming from and why now?" he asked.

Mr. Soosay stressed that the investigations had been shut down and that he had not been asked by FIFA or any other part to make a statement. "This whole thing is being taken out of context… There were no cash advancements ... everything (was) documented. PwC has given their report, FIFA has investigated. Everything is settled and the case closed. There is no such thing," Mr. Soosay said, referring to an independent audit in 2012 by PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC) on behalf of the AFC of Mr. Bin Hammam’s financial and commercial management of the group

In a written and signed statement dated July 26, 2012 and a video statement taped the same day by Michael John Pride, a FIFA security officer, AFC Finance Director Bryan Kuan Wee Hoong claimed that Mr. Soosay made his request during a 30-minute conversation that took place three days earlier on July 23 to which he had been summoned by the general secretary.

Asked this week by the Malay Mail to confirm Mr. Soosay’s request, Mr. Kuan refused to comment. “I do not wish to speak about this,” Mr. Kuan said before hanging up the phone.

Mr. Kuan suggested in the video that it was not the first time that Mr. Soosay had made the request. "When it was confirmed PwC was going to do the investigation, I had a separate conversation with him (Soosay) and he told me clearly that anything related to him, don't give to them (PwC)," Mr. Kuan said.

Mr. Kuan quoted then AFC Director Member Associations Relations and Development James Johnson as telling him that Mr. Soosay had made a similar request to Mr. Johnson. Mr. Johnson has since left the Asian group to join FIFA. Mr. Johnson, who was at the time reportedly supervising the investigations, was not available for comment.

Mr. Kuan asserted in his statements that Mr. Soosay, concerned that he could be implicated in the Bin Hammam investigations, asked Mr. Kuan whether he believed that the AFC general secretary could be “blamed or has committed crimes or violated any laws based on the information that could be contained in the audit.” Mr. Kuan quoted Mr. Soosay as saying “protect me” and asking, “Can you tamper or hide any documents related to me?”

In his statements, Mr. Kuan said Mr. Soosay had not identified specific documents but that he had concluded from the conversation that the AFC general secretary was referring to documents that he had signed, particularly related to cash advances to Mr. Bin Hammam, a key element in the PwC’s audit.

In response to Mr. Kuan’s refusal to act on the request, Mr. Soosay said, according to Mr. Kuan: “I should have tampered or got rid of the documents before PwC conducted this audit.”

Mr. Kuan said that he had advised Mr. Soosay to “let them investigate. I think everybody understood the situation he (Soosay) was in. When Hammam was in AFC, everybody knew that if he asked you to do something, you had to do it."

The sources close to the AFC said Mr. Pride taped the video statement and took the written statement as a private investigator rather than in his capacity as a FIFA official. The statements were made, the sources said, for the record in case questions about Mr. Soosay’s alleged request or the documents were posed rather than as the basis for an investigation.

In his written declaration, Mr. Kuan said that “this statement made accurately by me sets out the evidence that I would be prepared, if necessary, to provide to a football governing body and court as a witness.”

The sources said that Mr. Kuan had discussed Mr. Soosay’s July 23 request with Mr. Johnson who, according to the video, was present during the recording of Mr. Kuan’s statement by Mr. Pride. Mr. Kuan said he made his written and video-taped statements on advice of Mr. Johnson.

Mr. Kuan said in his statements that he had rejected the request and had not tampered or hidden any documents. He said he told Mr. Soosay that it would be wrong to tamper with documents and would make the situation worse if they went missing.

Asked in the video why Mr. Soosay would want the documents tampered with or hidden, Mr. Kuan said: "I'm not sure ... possibly because he is afraid he may be accountable for signing the payment instruction and that he didn't question it." He added that "If suddenly it goes missing, then everybody's integrity will be questioned," Mr. Kuan asserted in the video days before he reported documents as missing that it was "quite impossible" for anyone to tamper or disappear documents from his office.

One of the sources said that Zhang Zhilong, the then acting AFC president, advised Mr. Pride within days of Mr. Kuan’s statements that documents had gone missing from the AFC

Asserting that the AFC could be held liable for the payments by the WSG shareholder, may have been used to launder money, and could have breached sanctions against Iran and North Korea, the PwC audit said that “our transaction review revealed that items sampled were, in most cases, authorised by the General Secretary or Deputy General Secretary and the Director of Finance. As signatories these parties hold accountability for the authorisation of these transactions.  We also note the Internal Audit and Finance Committees were aware of this practice,” the PwC report said.

In a letter to Mr. Soosay dated September 27, 2012, Mr. Bin Hammam’s lawyer, Eugene Gulland of law firm Covington & Burling LLP, asserted that the general secretary had a conflict of interest as a result of PwC’s findings and demanded that he excuse himself from any involvement in the investigation of Mr. Bin Hammam.

Mr. Gulland asserted further that Mr. Soosay had been intimately involved in the negotiation of the WSG contract as well as a broadcast agreement with Al Jazeera. “It appears that you failed to reveal (to PwC) the existence of the Ad Hoc Committees which negotiated these contracts (on which you sat) nor the numerous internal review meetings both before and after the conclusion of the contracts in which you were involved…. In these circumstances it should be abundantly clear that you were completely conflicted with respect to the matters presently under investigation,” Mr. Gulland wrote.

In response to Mr. Gulland’s demand, Mr. Zhilong accused the lawyer in a letter to AFC members dated October 17, 2012 of adopting “intimidatory tactics” in Mr. Bin Hammam’s battle to defeat charges of bribery, corruption and financial mismanagement. Sources close to the AFC said Mr. Jilong wrote the letter in response to a barrage of emails and other communications in which the Qatari national allegedly threatened and intimidated AFC executive committee members and staff.

Sources close to the AFC as well as the audit said the documents were also related to a separate investigation of Mr. Bin Hammam that was being conducted on behalf of FIFA by the Freeh Group International Solutions, LLC, a global integrity and risk compliance consultancy founded by former US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director Louis J. Freeh.

“All of this was related. It was a complicated period. Only a small circle within the AFC knew about it. The documents were all connected to investigations we were doing,” said one of the sources.

The leaking of Mr. Kuan’s statements came as AFC president Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa stood to be re-elected at an AFC congress on April 30 in his home country of Bahrain. Sheikh Salman, who is the only candidate in the election and will automatically also become FIFA vice president, was initially elected in 2013 to succeed Mr. Bin Hammam and expected to introduce reforms that would ensure proper governance of the AFC.

Instead, Sheikh Salman since taking office buried the PwC audit and moved to centralize power within the group in his hand. In doing so, Sheikh Salman reneged on promises to establish a committee to look into political interference in Asian soccer and to report within a month on the status of the PwC audit. The burying of the audit effectively precluded an investigation of Mr. Soosay after he was identified in the audit as having been one of three AFC executives who had authorized payments related to Mr. Bin Hammam that were being called into question by PwC.

 “The audit’s purpose was to deal with Bin Hammam. It served its purpose. It’s been buried,” said an AFC executive committee member, suggesting that establishing facts as the basis for reform had not been the group’s primary purpose in commissioning the audit.

Sheikh Salman last year persuaded the AFC to adopt a resolution that solidified his power base by automatically nominating the group’s president as FIFA vice president. The move meant that the Asian FIFA vice presidency would no longer be an elected position.

As a result, Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan, who had been elected as FIFA vice president, would no longer be able to run for that office. A leading reformer in world soccer, Prince Ali is challenging FIFA President Sepp Blatter in the world soccer body’s presidential election scheduled to be held next month.

In an open letter last year to the Asian soccer community, Prince Ali charged that Sheikh Salman and “other AFC officials” were “driven purely by politics,” Prince Ali said it was “unfortunate” that the AFC was not focusing its “energies and valuable time to improving the game in Asia and addressing the myriad challenges that AFC faces in marketing, grassroots football, women’s football, transparency and accountability.”

Ironically, Mr. Soosay’s attempt to shield himself from the PwC audit leaked as Mr. Blatter in his weekly column in a FIFA magazine heaped praise on the Asian soccer body saying that “the AFC symbolises the importance of football as a school of life.” Sheikh Salman has promised that Asia would vote for Mr. Blatter in next month’s FIFA election.

The PwC audit concluded that Mr. Bin Hamman had used an AFC sundry account as his personal account. It also questioned a $1 billion master rights agreement with Singapore-based World Sports Group, which was negotiated by Mr. Bin Hammam.

The audit advised the AFC to seek legal counsel to ascertain whether the contract could be cancelled or renegotiated. It also suggested that the AFC solicit legal advice on potential civil or criminal charges against Mr. Bin Hammam. The PwC report constituted the basis for FIFA’s decision in late 2012 to ban the Qatari for life from involvement in professional soccer.

Mr. Kuan made on behalf of the AFC the first of three reports to the police that documents had been stolen from the AFC five days after recording and signing his statements, the Malaysian police told the Malay Mail.

In November 2012, the Malaysian public prosecutor dropped charges against Kong Lee Toong of involvement in the theft of documents from the AFC. Mr. Kong was the husband of Amelia Gan, who was AFC’s director of finance under Mr. Bin Hammam.  Ms. Gan has since joined Qatar Stars League as a club licensing and business planning officer.

The PwC report asserted that Ms. Gan starting in 2006 had managed the AFC account which Mr. Bin Hammam used “to facilitate personal transactions as if they were his personal bank accounts.” It also alleged that Ms. Gan was involved in negotiating AFC’s contract with WSG. “When the President (Bin Hammam) wished to facilitate a transaction from this account, he would instruct his Personal Assistant or Ms Gan, depending on the type of transaction,” the PwC report said. The report said Ms. Gan was aware of multiple unexplained payments made by Mr. Bin Hammam, including $20,000 to a purported FIFA lobbyist.

Mr. Kong surrendered himself to police in after Mr. Kuan reported the theft of the documents on July 31, according to sources close to the AFC and Agence France Presse. In that police report, Mr. Kuan stated that had he noticed that an “important document, which contained a bank report/statements belonging to former AFC president (Mohammad b Hammam), was missing from my office,” according to the sources. Mr. Kuan told the police that he and Mr. Johnson had last reviewed the document on July 13, 2012 and that “after that I kept the document back in a storage drawer” until he discovered that it was missing.

The sources said that the AFC within hours of reporting the missing documents received a letter from Mr. Bin Hammam’s Malaysian lawyers asserting that the group was responsible for the disappearance of documents related to what the lawyers described as "personal payments."

A second Malaysian police report dated August 11, according to the sources, quoted the AFC as reporting that AFC staffer Selina Lee Siew Choo, “had admitted taking the file (containing the documents) and said she had handed them to a male Chinese known as Tony, the husband of Ms Amelia Gan, who was the former (AFC) Finance Director. Selina had also admitted making a copy of a bank document advice for a transaction worth USD $2 million, which was a payment from ISE,” International Sports Group, the WSG shareholder. The payment referred to payments totalling $14 million into Mr. Bin Hammam’s AFC sundry account in advance of the signing of the company’s contract with the Asian soccer body.

A subsequent August 15 police report, the sources said, quoted an AFC official as saying that Ms. Choo on August 2 had “admitted stealing the file from the drawer in my office as instructed by Ms Amelia Gan (former finance director at AFC). Her instructions were to steal the file which showed the document/ bank advice containing the US$2 million transaction from ISE and surrender them to her husband, Tony Kong.”

The report quoted Mr. Kuan as saying that “I have my suspicions/reasons to believe that the theft of the file was to dispose evidence involving a case of wrongful management of AFC accounts by Mohammad Bin Hammam in the wake of a financial audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers.”


James M. Dorsey is a Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, co-‐director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, a syndicated columnist, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog

Malay Mail: Explosive ‘tamper or hide’ AFC probe video surfaces / Soosay: Where’s this coming from, why now?



Explosive ‘tamper or hide’ AFC probe video surfaces

By Haresh Deol 

KUALA LUMPUR — The general secretary of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) allegedly attempted to "tamper or hide" documents during the 2012 internal audit that was triggered by claims of corrupt practices by then president Mohammad Hammam, reveals evidence obtained by Malay Mail.

A video recording of a Fifa investigation, obtained by Malay Mail this week, sheds new light on the episode and implicates Datuk Alex Soosay in an alleged cover-up.

Soosay vehemently denied the contents of the video, saying it was an attempt to smear him. The former Negri Sembilan footballer is in Bahrain for a series of meetings ahead of the AFC elections on April 30 (see accompanying story).

The explosive disclosures surfaced in the video recorded on July 26, 2012 in an interview with AFC financial director Bryan Kuan Wee Hoong by Fifa investigator Michael John Pride.

Kuan said Soosay had, during a meeting in his office three days earlier, spoken about the PriceWaterhouse Coopers (PwC) audit before allegedly requesting him to tamper or hide documents which could incriminate him.

He claimed Soosay said "protect me" before asking "can you tamper or hide any documents that relate to me?"

"He started by saying how are things going ... and then said things are under control. He explained the next steps by AFC and Fifa. He suddenly said 'protect me' and I was surprised," Kuan said in the video.

"He said based on (what) they (PwC) have found out, have 'I committed any crime and will they blame me for anything? Anything that you have … is it possible to either tamper or hide it somewhere?'

"As far as I understand (Soosay was talking about) things he had signed ... about the premium voucher, the instruction to initiate payment mainly possibly for cash advances taken by Hammam.

"I said let them investigate. I think everybody understood the situation he was in. When Hammam was in AFC, everybody knew if he asked you to do something, you had to do it." 
Kuan said he had received a similar request in the past.

"When it was confirmed PwC was going to do the investigation, I had a separate conversation with him (Soosay) and he told me clearly anything related to him, don't give to them (PwC)," Kuan said in the video.

Kuan said he was unable to tamper or hide documents as it would be wrong and would worsen the situation if documents went missing. Soosay apparently "took a short breath" and said "I should have tampered or not provided the documents before PwC conducted this audit".

Asked why Soosay would want the documents tampered with or hidden, Kuan said: "I'm not sure ... possibly because he is afraid he may be accountable for signing the payment instructions and that he didn't question it."

"If suddenly it (documents) goes missing, then everybody's integrity will be questioned," Kuan said, adding it was "quite impossible" for anyone to tamper or hide documents from his office.

On July 31 the same year, AFC lodged a police report claiming documents — bank reports and statements linked to Hammam — were missing from AFC House in Bukit Jalil. 

The missing documents related to a US$2 million (RM7.23 million) payment in 2008 by International Sports Event, one of three World Sport Group shareholders. The other two shareholders are Lagardere Unlimited and Dentsu.

Asked at the end of the recording if he was pressured to make the statement, Kuan said "no".

Kuan, however, refused to speak about the video when contacted on Wednesday. 

"I do not wish to speak about this," he told Malay Mail before hanging up.

Another former AFC staff member, James Johnson, who left for Fifa, was apparently present during the video recording.

It is learnt the video was never submitted to Fifa. In an email reply to Malay Mail, Fifa said: "We kindly suggest you to direct your enquiry to AFC."

Bukit Aman Commercial Crime Investigation Department confirmed Soosay had, in a police report on Aug 17, 2012, alleged Hammam had embezzled nearly US$10 million (RM36.17 million).

Its deputy director (operations and intelligence) Datuk Abdul Jalil Hassan said the case was classified as NFA (no further action). He declined to elaborate.

Former AFC financial director Amelia Gan and her husband Tony Kong Lee Toong were implicated in the theft of missing documents at AFC House. 

Kong claimed trial to a theft charge on Sept 19, 2012. On Nov 9, 2012, Kong's lawyer Kamarul Hisham Kamaruddin said prosecutors decided to drop the charge but he did not give any reasons.

Soosay: Where’s this coming from, why now?

KUALA LUMPUR — AFC general secretary Datuk Alex Soosay refuted allegations he had instructed any party to "tamper or hide documents" linked to him during the internal audit by PwC in 2012.

Soosay stressed investigations had been wrapped up and he was never hauled up by any party including Fifa to provide statements regarding the episode.

"Where is this coming from and why now?" Soosay asked, when told about the July 26, 2012 video recording between AFC financial director Bryan Kuan Wee Hoong and Fifa investigator Michael John Pride.

"If there was something, wouldn't they have investigated me? This is just a smear (campaign) against me. There is no such thing."

Soosay was in Dubai on Wednesday, awaiting his flight to Bahrain where he will attend a series of meetings ahead of the AFC elections on April 30. 

He added: "It is a non-issue. There is no evidence of any wrongdoing."

Asked if he had been under duress during Hammam's tenure as president, Soosay said: "Yes".

He said he had no issues with Kuan whose disclosures to Fifa alleged Soosay had asked him to tamper or hide crucial documents. 

"I appointed Kuan after we sacked Amelia Gan (former AFC financial director)."
Gan, and her husband Tony Kong Lee Toong, were implicated in the theft of missing documents at AFC House in Bukit Jalil on July 31, 2012.  

"This whole thing is being taken out of context. It is only to smear me. There were no cash advancements ... everything (was) documented.

"PwC has given their report, Fifa has investigated. Everything is settled and the case closed. There is no such thing," he added.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Israel chides club for racism in bid to fend off FIFA suspension


By James M. Dorsey

Israel’s Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) has demanded that notoriously racist club Beitar Jerusalem, the bad boy of Israeli soccer, retract recent statements that it would maintain its policy of not hiring Palestinian players because of opposition by the team’s militant, racist fan base.

The demand comes as Israel is fighting an attempt by the Palestine Football Association (PFA) to get the Jewish state suspended from FIFA at next month’s congress of the world soccer body. The PFA charges that Israel hinders the development of Palestinian soccer by obstructing travel of Palestinian players between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as well as abroad.

Senior Israeli soccer officials are in Europe this week for talks with FIFA president Sepp Blatter, and Michel Platini, the head of the European soccer body UEFA, in a bid to block the PFA effort. They counter the Palestinian assertion by insisting that the Israel Football Association (IFA) has no say in Israeli security policy.

The PFA effort is part of a broader campaign by President Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestine Authority to pressure and isolate Israel following the failure of peace talks and last year’s Gaza war by joining multiple UN organizations, particularly the International Criminal Court (ICC). FIFA was the first international group to recognize Palestine as far back as 1998.

An Israeli law firm joined the Israeli-Palestinian battle in international organizations with a petition to the ICC to investigate PFA president General Jibril Rajoub on suspicion of war crimes during last year’s Gaza war.

It is hard to assume that the demand by the EEOC is at least not in part related to the battle over Israel’s status in FIFA given that the commission has not acted in the past against Beitar Jerusalem, the only top flight Israeli club to have not hired Palestinian players even though Palestinians rank among the country’s top performers. Beitar’s nationalist ideology is embedded in its name, a reference to the Jews’ last standing fortress in the second century Bar Kochba revolt against the Romans.

Similarly, the Israel Football Association, even though it is the only Middle Eastern soccer body to have an anti-racism program, has repeatedly slapped Beitar Jerusalem on the knuckles but has always stopped short of significantly raising the cost of the club’s persistent racism. Beitar, which has long enjoyed the support of Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and other prominent right-wing personalities, has the worst disciplinary record in Israel’s Premier League.

Beitar’s rabidly anti-Palestinian, anti-Muslim La Familia support group sparked rare national outrage in 2013 when it unfurled a banner asserting that “Beitar will always remain pure” in protest against the club’s brief hiring of two Muslim players from Chechnya. It was the group’s use of language associated with German National Socialism that sparked the outrage against its consistent racism.

Nonetheless, La Familia operates in an environment in which racism, racial superiority, bigotry, double standards and little sincere effort to address a key issue that undermines Israel’ s projection of itself as a democratic state founded on the ashes of discrimination , prejudice and genocide is one predominant story that emerges from the country’s soccer pitches.

Writing in Soccer & Society, Israeli football scholar Amir Ben-Porat warned that “the football stadium has become an arena for protest: political, ethnic, nationalism, etc… ‘Death to the Arabs’ has thus become common chant in football stadiums… Many Israelis consider the Israeli Arabs (Palestinians) to be ‘Conditional Strangers,’ that is temporary citizens… Contrary to conventional expectations, these fans are not unsophisticated rowdies, but middle-class political-ideological right-wingers, whose rejection of Arab football players on their team is based on a definite conception of Israel as a Jewish (Zionist) state,” Mr. Ben-Porat wrote.

Responding to Mr. Levi, IFA president Ofer Eini said "Levy's words are not appropriate and their racist scent certainly doesn't contribute to Israeli soccer and Israeli society. As a coach and an educator it would have been better had he avoided comments which can serve those who want to divide Israeli society." Mr. Eini did not include any potential punitive action against Beitar in his statement.

The EEOC and the IFA took issue with a statement in a radio interview by Beitar coach Guy Levi that “it doesn’t matter that this is the right time; it would create tension and cause much greater damage. I won’t find any player from the Arab sector who would want to. Even if there was a player who suited me professionally, I wouldn’t bring him, because it would create unnecessary tension.”

Mr. Levi said that opposition by La Familia, whom he praised, meant that he would not sign Israel international Bibras Natcho, a Circassian Muslim, as it would stir unrest among the club’s supporters. 

"My job is to coach the team, not to educate anyone," Mr. Levy said. Mr. Natcho, a CSKA Moscow midfielder asked Mr. Levy on Twitter: "What would happen if a European coach would have announced that he doesn't want a Jewish player on his team?"

EEOC commissioner Tziona Koenig-Yair asserted that Mr. Levi’s comments constituted “suspicion of racism in contravention of the law prohibiting discrimination based on nationality, among other things in acceptance to employment.”

Mr. Levi’s assertion that Palestinian players would not want to play for Beitar, presumably because the explicit racist provocation of, chants against, and attacks on Palestinians and Muslims by La Familia, was belied by Mohammed Ghadir, a Palestinian striker, who in 2011 said he wanted to play for Beitar but was rejected. "I am well suited to Beitar, and that team would fit me like a glove. I have no qualms about moving to play for them,” Mr. Ghadir said at the time. The EEOC and the IFA failed to step in.

In a commentary on Mr. Ghadir’s case, Ha’aretz columnist Yoav Borowitz noted that “an extraordinarily courageous Arab player has stood up, and fearlessly indicated that he is not afraid to play for Beitar. The Jerusalem squad did not assent to his request - not because he lacks sufficient talent, but because he is an Arab. This is a mark of Cain for Beitar Jerusalem and its fans, and also for the city of Jerusalem, the state of Israel and its legal system, the IFA and also for the media, which continues to cover this soccer team. Day by day, we reinforce and popularize this loathsome form of racism.”

Beitar was founded in 1936 by members of the Beitar movement established in 1923 in Latvia as part of the revanchist Zionist trend. Beitar’s founder, former Ukrainian war reporter Ze'ev Jabotinsky, hoped to imbue its members with a military spirit.

The club initially drew many of its players and fans from Irgun, an extreme nationalist, para-military Jewish underground that waged a violent campaign against the pre-state British mandate authorities. As a result, many of them were exiled to Eritrea in the 1940s. Many of La Familia’s members are supporters of Kach, the outlawed violent and racist party that was headed by assassinated Rabbi Meir Kahane. La Familia frequently displays Kach’s symbols.

Beitar’s initial anthem reflected the club’s politics, glorifying a “guerrilla army racist and tough, an army that calls itself the supporters of Beitar.” That spirit still comes to life when fans of Beitar meets their team’s Palestinian rivals. Their support reaches a feverish pitch as they chant racist, anti-Arab songs and denounce the Prophet Mohammed.

Beitar’s matches often resemble a Middle Eastern battlefield. The club’s hard core fans -- Sephardi 
males of Middle Eastern and North African origin who defined their support as subversive and against the country’s Ashkenazi establishment -- revel in their status as bad boys. Their dislike of Ashkenazi Jews of East European extraction, rooted in resentment against social and economic discrimination, rivals their disdain for Palestinians.

The failure to seriously confront La Familia has entrenched Palestinian perceptions of an Israeli society that is inherently racist. Israeli Palestinian Member of Parliament Ahmed Tibi has laid the blame for La Familia’s excess at the doorstep of Israeli political and sports leaders. “For years, no one really tried to stop them, not the police, not the club, not the attorney-general and not the Israeli Football Association," he said.


James M. Dorsey is a Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, co-­‐director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, a syndicated columnist, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog