Junji Ogura (Photo: Reuters)
A senior official of the Japan Football Association has denied allegations that it paid $1.5 million to the sport's South American confederation for supporting its co-hosting of the 2002 World Cup, a newspaper reported Sunday.
"It's impossible," JFA hononary president Junji Ogura told the Asahi Shimbun of the report.
On Friday Spanish sports daily Diario AS said the JFA paid the money to the South American football confederation, Conmebol, after it backed Japan's co-hosting with South Korea of the 2002 event.
The report came amid deepening scandals at the top of world football's governing body FIFA. Fourteen of its officials or partners have been charged as part of a corruption investigation led by US authorities.
A source who worked at Conmebol for 15 years told the Spanish paper that the then-JFA honorary president Ken Naganuma sent the money in 2000. He has since died.
Japan and South Korea were chosen in 1996 as joint hosts of the 2002 event after fierce competition between the two nations.
Ogura said any such payment in 2000 would have been impossible since Japan had won the event four years earlier.
"Besides, we don't have such a sum of money," he added.
The Yomiuri Shimbun quoted JFA president Kuniya Daini as saying the organisation would check whether the money was really sent.
Kozo Tashima, a JFA vice president and member of the FIFA executive committee, told local media he had never heard about the alleged payment.
"I know nothing. I don't know what to say," he said.
The JFA could not be reached for comment Sunday.
(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)