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Friday, July 9, 1999 Published at 17:40 GMT 18:40 UK

Sport: Football

Asia renews World Cup threat

Fifa President Sepp Blatter thought the crisis had been averted

Asian countries have renewed their threat to boycott the football World Cup in 2002, complaining that the sport's governing body, Fifa, has not allocated them enough places.

BBC World's Sports Editor David Brenner: "Asian officials mean business"
The decision has taken Fifa by surprise. It thought the long-standing boycott threat had been averted earlier this week, when Europe offered a play-off place to Asia.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) thanked Europe for its efforts, but is now demanding another place in the 32-team finals, to take its allocation up to three.

This is in addition to the automatic places granted to the joint host countries, Japan and South Korea.

Asian Football Confederation Secretary Peter Velappan
"Asia has expressed its appreciation to Uefa and its president, Lennart Johansson, for so magnanimously giving half a seat to Asia," said Mr Velappan. "But ... Asia is compelled to boycott 2002 qualifying."

"It was decided by all the delegates, who felt Asia has been shabbily treated on this issue and this was an unanimous demonstration of solidarity," he added.

[ image:  ]
The AFC says its delegates will walk out of Friday's Fifa Congess in Los Angeles in protest to what it called an unacceptable decision.

Fifa President Sepp Blatter said he would not comment until he had been officially notified of the decision.

The Asian countries' complaint is that their share of places in the finals has been cut compared with last year's World Cup in France. At the finals last year, Asia had three automatic places plus a play-off spot, which Iran won by beating Oceania winner Australia. However none of the Asian teams advanced beyond the first round.

Nonetheless the AFC, which says it represents the football for more than half the world's population, argued that one place had in effect been taken away.

[ image: Sepp Blatter: Yet to react to the new blow]
Sepp Blatter: Yet to react to the new blow
The Asian countries said it was not their decision to appoint co-hosts rather than the usual single host, and that it was unfair that they should lose a place.

They say the decision was a political one and should not affect their participation.

The row has been simmering since December, when the AFC, which represents more than 40 Asian footballing nations, threatened strike action if its allocation was not increased.

Following two days of meetings in Los Angeles, Fifa President Sepp Blatter announced on Tuesday a deal which would see a European team playing a deciding qualifier against an Asian national side.

The move, in effect, gave Asia an extra one-half place and correspondingly reduced the Euroean allocation.

European teams had been allocated 15 places in the 32-team finals, including one automatic position for World Champions France.

The 2002 finals will be the first to be held in Asia.

In 1966 African and Asian nations - with the exception of North Korea - withdrew from the qualifying rounds for the 16-team finals after just one place was allocated to the two continents.

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