Asian football chief Mohamed Bin Hammam urged fellow Asian members Tuesday to pull together and help his campaign for the FIFA presidency.
Bin Hammam, who chairs the Asian Football Confederation, is seeking to oust the long-time FIFA President Sepp Blatter.
FIFA, the world’s football governing body, confirmed Monday that the current president Blatter of Swiss and Qatari challenger Bin Hammam are the only candidates for the presidential election on June 1.
During a news conference in Seoul, the buoyant Asian chief vowed to enhance the status of Asian football and increase transparency in the world governing body.
“I’m very happy to be back here. I came here nearly one year ago. At that time I said ‘It’s high time for Asia representing the FIFA.’ Now I’m a candidate for the AFC and the future of Asia,” he said.
Bin Hammam chose the Korean capital as the first stop for his campaign, seeking ties with Korean officials. Before coming to Seoul, he visited Pyongyang, North Korea, where he met the newly appointed North Korean football chief.
AFC president Mohamed Bin Hammam (left) poses with outgoing FIFA vice president Chung Mong-joon (center) and Cho Chung-yun, head of the KFA, during a press conference at Hotel Shilla in Seoul on Tuesday. (Park Hae-mook / The Korea Herald)
On Tuesday, he had meetings with FIFA vice-president Chung Mong-joon, head of the Korea Football Association Cho Chung-yun and also Korea’s top division football league president Chung Mong-gyu to discuss his campaign.
Speaking at the joint news conference at the Hotel Shilla in central Seoul, the FIFA vice-president Chung noted that he would back Bin Hammam.
“The FIFA president should be well-respected by the members, but I think Blatter failed to live up to the billing,” Chung said.
Chung failed earlier to retain his FIFA title after losing to Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan in a vote held at the AFC conference last year.
Bin Hammam was thought to be one of the main power sources of Prince Ali’s campaign. Despite the bitter memories, Chung said that he believes Bin Hammam could change the FIFA.
“FIFA has recently shown many problems,” he said, citing the conflict between Visa and MasterCard over sponsorship.
“I think it’s time for Blatter to leave his seat,” Chung added.
“Many people now accuse FIFA of being a corrupted organization. But I think FIFA is not corrupted but what is missing is transparency,” Bin Hammam said.
In order to build on transparency, the AFC chief insists that the FIFA director committee should be a 43-member board, instead of the current 24 members.
He also said he wants to set up a new transparency committee if he wins the election in June.
Bin Hamman has been on FIFA’s executive committee for the past 15 years, and is now in his third term as the AFC president. The 61-year-old Qatari businessman recently gained popularity after playing an important role in his country’s successful bid for the 2022 World Cup.
Having secured world-wide recognition, the Asian football chief is now aiming to oust 13-year incumbent Blatter to become the first Asian head of the world’s football governing body.
Blatter, who has been head of FIFA since 1998, is seeking his fourth term. But the 75-year-old Swiss promised that he would step down in 2015 if he is re-elected for a fourth term.
The president will be elected at the 61st FIFA Congress in Zurich on June 1. The 208 member states will each cast a vote to select the president. FIFA election rules require the winning candidate to get a two-thirds majority of valid votes cast in the first ballot, or a majority in the second.
“I am happy with the support in Asia,” said Bin Hamman. But he admitted that he still needs to garner votes from other confederations.
Especially, members of European football body make up more than one quarter of the maximum 208 FIFA voters, while the AFC has 46 member states.
“I’m not only representing Asia, but also all confederations that are looking for a better future for the FIFA. I hope they will back my presidency,” he added.
By Oh Kyu-wook (firstname.lastname@example.org