[PHOTO NEWS: Qatar Football Association is organizing a beach football course for national coaches from January 9-13 in Doha under the supervision of FIFA. The five – day educational course is an integral part of QFA strategy to create a well-trained generation of national coaches able to help the game develop the game in the country.]

MANILA, JANUARY 4, 2011 (STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin Henson - There’s a possibility that our country will be embarrassed by the presence of two individuals claiming to be the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) president at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Congress in Qatar on Thursday.

If in the event that deposed PFF president Jose Mari Martinez and newly-elected successor Mariano Araneta, Jr. show up to cast the country’s vote in the AFC elections during the Congress, all hell will break loose.

Martinez is supported by AFC president Mohamed Bin Hammam of Qatar while Araneta’s election has been recognized by the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and FIFA or Federation Internationale de Football Association, the Zurich-based world body governing the sport.

Hammam packs a lot of weight in Asian football and is slowly consolidating his forces to possibly go for the FIFA presidency in the future. Qatar recently won the bid to host the 2022 World Cup, a strong indication of Hammam’s influence.

At the AFC Congress, Hammam is running unopposed for reelection. But there are crucial elections for the AFC representative to become FIFA vice president and the AFC representatives to occupy two slots in the FIFA executive committee. The candidates for FIFA vice president are Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan and Dr. Chung Mong Joon of South Korea. Candidates from Sri Lanka, Thailand, Japan and China are disputing the two FIFA executive committee seats.

Hammam is certain of Martinez’ vote but can’t be sure whom Araneta will support. Obviously, Hammam wants his candidates to win as FIFA vice president and FIFA executive committee members.

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Yesterday, the Pasig court was set to raffle off the case filed by Martinez for a temporary restraining order (TRO) to prevent Araneta from taking over the PFF presidency. There was no word at presstime as to which sala the case landed and if the presiding judge issued the TRO or if the raffle took place. With the TRO, Araneta’s group would be given a specific period of time within which to respond to the suit. Since the AFC Congress is scheduled on Thursday, a TRO will prevent Araneta from functioning as the PFF president as it is impossible to settle the injunction before then. The ploy could be precisely what is in Martinez’ agenda so he, not Araneta, is able to vote in the Congress.

The problem is FIFA will not recognize the injunction if it is ordered by the Philippine court. The FIFA rule is if Martinez wants to question its decision, he may bring it up before the Court of Arbitration for Sport which is based in Lausanne.

“Araneta may be courting judicial disaster if he tries to vote in the AFC Congress assuming the TRO is issued,” said national team manager Dan Palami. “But he’ll be the hero of the Filipino football community that knows what is right and what is wrong.”

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Last Wednesday, FIFA sent two female lawyers to Manila to get to the bottom of the PFF leadership squabble even as FIFA president Joseph Blatter had confirmed Araneta’s election in a letter to Hammam dated last Dec. 23. The lawyers were deployed in compliance with an agreement made by Blatter, Hammam and FIFA chairman of the associations committee Geoff Thompson at a meeting in Dubai last Dec. 18.

The lawyers were FIFA head of corporate legal Fabienne Moser-Frei and AFC legal director My Dung Nguyen. They spent two days and one night in Manila before leaving last Thursday.

Palami said the lawyers grilled the PFF staff, members of the Board of Governors and even Martinez in several hours of meetings. Araneta was not present as he was in Jakarta attending the AFF Congress as PFF president.

“The lawyers were concerned about procedures, whether the rules were followed according to the PFF statutes in calling for Mari’s removal and Nonong’s election,” said Palami. “They watched a video of the PFF Congress. They listened to all parties concerned. I don’t know what were their conclusions but I imagine they were convinced that things were done in order.”

The lawyers are expected to submit their report on the fact-finding mission shortly.

If Martinez and Araneta face off in Qatar, it’s likely FIFA will step in and suspend the PFF for the shameful display of disunity and unsportsmanlike conduct. What an embarrassment to the country should this happen. It will be reminiscent of the country’s suspension by FIBA because of the quarrel between the Samahang Basketbol Ng Pilipinas (SBP) and Basketball Association of the Philippines (BAP).

“It will be a mess if the TRO is issued,” said Araneta. “FIFA won’t recognize it and in the world of sports, not even the IOC will recognize an order from a civil court. There is still so much to be done for Philippine football. Instead of wasting time in court, we should be moving forward.”

Spotlight on Nadal, Federer as ATP season kicks off in Qatar

Spain's Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer of Switzerland warm up at the west bay during an exhibition match to promote the city of Doha. One of sport's great and enduring rivalries resumes with the battle for supremacy between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer dominating the new tennis season.

As the 2011 campaign got underway this week in Qatar, Nadal is unchallengeable at the top of the ATP rankings, some 3 305 points clear of Federer, after a superb 2010 season when he took the world number one spot and the French Open and Wimbledon titles from the Swiss star. Photo: Reuters January 3, 2011 at 20:24

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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