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[Newsmaker] Chung Mong-joon in bid to clean up FIFA

Corruption, scandal, money laundering, internal strife, fraud, power and FBI investigations – the recent allegations surrounding FIFA have all the elements of a Hollywood movie.
Chung Mong-joon (Yonhap)
Chung Mong-joon (Yonhap)

Oscar winner, producer and actor Ben Affleck, who is soon to be the next Batman, will produce a movie about FIFA’s alleged misdeeds over the last 20 years, recently involving the bidding processes for the Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 World Cups. The star of this drama may play Charles “Chuck” Blazer, a former executive of FIFA, who is currently acting as a whistle-blower, cooperating with the feds and the U.S. Justice Department.

Will this movie plot thicken and resolve by including Chung Mong-joon, who on Monday announced his bid to run for FIFA president and clean up the world’s football governing body?

A former politician, who was unsuccessful in his bids to become Seoul mayor and president of the Republic of Korea, Chung also inherited Hyundai Heavy Industries, the world’s largest shipbuilder, from his father, Chung Ju-yung, Hyundai Group’s legendary founder.

The former FIFA executive and head of the Korea Football Association is credited for bringing the 2002 World Cup to be cohosted here in Korea with Japan. Chung, who is often nicknamed the “Korean soccer head-of-state,” is worthy of at least a brief inclusion in Affleck’s new movie.

Given Chung’s ambitions for political or business positions with global clout, no one in Korea doubted that he would run for the top FIFA job when he said he would consider it back in June, following an investigative raid and arrest of FIFA officials and the announcement of resignation by the incumbent president Joseph “Sepp” Blatter.

Chung said he was deeply saddened by the latest crisis facing FIFA and its negative image among soccer fans around the world, vowing to change and overcome the current difficulties by boosting transparency and accountability in FIFA’s bidding and other activities.

"If I become the president of FIFA, I will serve only once for four years. I can change FIFA within this four-year term,” said Chung in Paris, France where the association was launched 111 years ago.

But Chung will not be the only contender for the challenging job to regain the world’s trust in the giant football organization, which is accused of illicit monetary transactions of kickbacks via accounts in the U.S., giving favorable broadcasting rights, and sponsorship and merchandising deals.

There are four others, including Michel Platini, president of the Union of European Football Associations, who have expressed interest in becoming the FIFA chief next February.

The candidates, including Chung, are expected to campaign hard with their own ideas and measures to refurbish the image and dealings of the World Cup organizer. They need to make FIFA look more transparent, and not like the mafia organization it appeared to be in the FBI’s investigation.

Like any reform job that involves rooting out old practices and stepping out of comfort zones, the task will be difficult for whoever leads FIFA to revive its image of an association that represented not only dreams but also peace and prosperity through the sport.

Koreans might want to see a compatriot win the FIFA presidential election just as Ban Ki-moon became U.N. secretary-general.

But the world needs a leader who not only has political leverage but is also fearless in bringing change in the face of naysayers, and see to it that the investigation uncovers the truth and scandals do not occur again in such a reputable organization as FIFA.

By Park Hyong-ki (hkp@heraldcorp.com)

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