Justice must be seen to be done > Related story: Over age controversy must be sorted out <
By ..Edward Thangarajah Talking Sport, Bangkok Post October 14, 2001 Edition
I read this week that Thailand had been punished, along with four other
countries, for fielding over-age soccer players in last year's Asian
Youth Under-16 Championship, I was disappointed and said to myself _ not
I thought the ugly era when boys were made to have short haircuts to disguise their age and then play in age-group competitions was over.
My immediate reaction was to wonder why the Football Association of Thailand (FAT) had taken a step backwards.
But after making inquiries, I have been told that someone who wields power in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is allegedly trying to tarnish the image of the FAT and it is claimed he is doing everything he can to land the Thai soccer controlling body in trouble.
According to a reliable source, the Thai team were knocked out in the first round of the Asian Youth Under-16 Championship held in Da Nang, Vietnam last year. Four months later the X-rays of two Thai players were requested by the AFC and they were then ruled to have been over-age.
Two other countries, Iran and Oman, suffered a similar fate but they had qualified to play in the final round last month held in Trinidad and Tobago. They appealed to the world controlling body, Fifa, and it invalidated the X-ray tests.
Both Iran and Oman _ who altogether had eight players originally suspended by the AFC _ were allowed to play in the recently-concluded Under-17 World Cup.
Under those circumstances many are wondering how the AFC _ which is only an affiliate of Fifa _ could act in such a draconian way.
And why pick a country like Thailand, who were eliminated in the first round, to be the ones so harshly punished.
Thailand have been fined US$10,000 and cannot compete in the next tournament to be held in 2002.
Before taking such strong action, why didn't the AFC _ which is only a continental body _ consult with Fifa and find out what the world governing body had to say?
There must have been a good reason for Fifa not to have recognised the X-ray tests.
And what the AFC should remember is that the Asian Championship is only a qualifier for the Under-17 World Cup which is conducted by Fifa, hence the Asian tournament comes under the control of the world body.
This is like putting the cart before the horse.
It is very easy to tarnish the images of countries _ but those who took the decision to punish these five nations should have thought twice, or waited for Fifa's reaction, before jumping to conclusions and suspending them from the next tournament. And, worst of all, branding the five countries as cheats.
In contrast, I was elated to see smiles on the faces of Thailand's former boxing heroes at the Sports Authority of Thailand on Friday when Asian Boxing Council president Pol Gen Kovid Bhakdibhumi asked them to attend a meeting.
I was also happy to see a veteran boxer, Privy Councillor Gen Pichitr Kullavanijaya, inspire them to help Thai youngsters from falling into vice and crime.
This is what many others who have been sports heroes should be doing.
They should give back what they have got from sports.
Unfortunately there are only a handful in the country who contribute to the progress of sports.
In boxing, especially the professional side of the discipline, this has been overlooked.
Sad to say, many promoters, matchmakers and managers care only about financial gains.
They have ignored the suffering and unhappiness boxers, especially former champions, have endured.
There have been countless champions who have been neglected as hardly anyone cared for them after their retirement from the ring.
Therefore Pol Gen Kovid's plan to find a place in society for former greats is commendable and should be well supported by philanthropists.