An Asian Football Confederation (AFC) official has shut down questions regarding detained footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi at a Socceroos press conference hours after FIFA wrote to the Thailand prime minister urging his release.
The Secretary General of FIFA, Fatma Samousa, wrote a letter directed to Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha calling for the immediate release of Mr Al-Araibi due to fears he will be mistreated if he is returned to Bahrain.
"This situation should not have arisen, in particular, since Mr Al-Araibi now lives, works and plays as a professional footballer in Australia where he has been accorded refugee status," the letter reads.
In contrast, the AFC was not in the mood to field questions regarding the detention of the refugee.
A question about Mr Al-Araibi was swiftly blocked by an AFC official at the Socceroos' Asian Cup pre-match press conference.
Socceroos coach Graham Arnold and player Mathew Leckie were asked if they had been following Mr Al-Araibi's case and had any messages of support for the Melbourne-based player.
"Let's stick to tomorrow's match, it's a pre-match press conference," the official interjected before Arnold or Leckie could answer the question.
The journalist was then directed to take up his issue with the Socceroos' media officer.
"I think the FFA have addressed that," Arnold then said before the press conference moved on.
It's the first time Socceroos players or coaching staff have been asked about Mr Al-Araibi's situation in an official media event at the tournament.
"When according [to] refugee status to Mr Al-Araibi, the Australian authorities concluded that he is at serious risk of mistreatment in his home country,' it continues.
FIFA requests meeting
FIFA's letter is the latest in a concerted campaign to put pressure on Thai authorities to release the refugee footballer.
'Fifa is therefore respectfully urging Thailand to take the necessary steps to ensure Mr Al-Araibi is allowed to return safely to Australia at the earliest possible moment,' the letter states.
Ms Samousa also asked for a meeting with a high-level representative at the earliest possible convenience to receive "first-hand information on the status of the proceedings."
Former Socceroo and SBS commentator Craig Foster, who this week flew to Bangkok to visit Mr Al-Araibi in detention, welcomed the letter.
Welcome step. Not enough. At a minimum, the same letter must go to Bahrain immediately. @fifamedia
are obligated to apply maximum leverage with 'all relevant stakeholders'. Bahrain is the other. Waiting for the letter @fatma_samoura
.. thankyou #SaveHakeem
— Craig Foster (@Craig_Foster) January 24, 2019
But he said more pressure needed to be applied to Bahrain to stop any deportation.