The Asian Football Confederation has moved to calm South Korean anger over perceived threatening comments by president Mohamed Bin Hammam toward a top Korean football official.
|Mohamed bin Hammam in hot water [GALLO/GETTY]
Bin Hammam's seat on the executive committee of Fifa will be challenged by Bahrain football chief Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Khalifa at a meeting in May.
Talking to Qatari television in Arabic this week, Bin Hamman inferred Korean influences were behind the move.
"Shaikh Salman is not doing this on his own, he is doing this at the instruction of others, especially people in the (South) Korean federation," Bin Hammam was quoted as saying.
The AFC chief then reportedly used a phrase that could be directly translated as threatening to cut off the head of a top Korean official, but which Bin Hammam said had been misinterpreted.
"It is a popular, harmless and widely used Arabic metaphor," Bin Hammam explained in a statement issued on Wednesday.
"It means to halt someone's plans or nip in the bud someone's progress.
"It is like the English saying "heads will roll." That doesn't literally mean someone's head is going to roll off, does it?"
"As we all know, the first thing to be lost in translation is humour.
"Clichés and phrases are most likely to be misinterpreted," added Bin Hammam.
"I hope this sets the record straight."
His explanation may not be enough for the Korean Football Association (KFA) who demanded an official apology.
"We strongly criticise Mohamed's groundless remarks insulting us and other AFC members," KFA spokesman You Young-cheul told national news agency Yonhap.
"The KFA wants an explanation and apology from Mohammed over his remarks,
which are improper as AFC head."
Korean media identified the subject of Bin Hammam's as recently appointed KFA head Cho Chung-yeon.
Korean media outlet My Daily interpreted Bin Hammam's comments as an extension of the struggle for influence in Asia between Bin Hammam and Chung Mong-joon, the Fifa vice president and AFC executive committee member.
The Hyundai scion made some outspoken criticisms of Bin Hammam at the time of Khalifa's announced challenge.