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Weak leagues to blame for Asian failure - AFC chief

Written by: Staff

KUALA LUMPUR, June 29 (Reuters) Asian football chief Mohamed bin Hammam says weak domestic leagues are to blame for Asia's relative failure at the World Cup finals in Germany.

Hammam was quoted on the Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) official Web site saying he was disappointed at the failure of 2002 semi-finalists South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Iran to reach the second round.

Only Australia, who qualified for the World Cup as Oceania representatives but have since switched to the AFC, advanced from the group stages before losing 1-0 to Italy.

''Our results in Germany, with the exception of Australia, have brought great disappointment to many Asian fans,'' Hamman said.

''It is my belief that this defeat is because of poor competition structures, particularly club competitions, both at national and confederation level.

''We will not see any improvement at the international standard unless we restructure and improve the professionalism in our clubs and in our leagues.'' Hammam said Australia already have a head start over most Asian countries.

''In my mind, a key contributor to Australia's success (at the World Cup) is that most of their team play in very strong leagues.

''They are well prepared for the high standards at the World Cup. We need to build strong leagues in Asia so that our national teams have the same experience to bring to the field in such important competitions.'' REUTERS DH RK1748

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