BANGKOK - Embattled Asian soccer chief
Mohamed Bin Hammam expects to overcome a hostile challenge for
his FIFA executive committee seat in upcoming elections, which
he sees as a vote on his leadership.
The powerful Qatari, who has vowed to quit as Asian
Football Confederation president if unseated, believes he has
raised the level of the Asian game and will retain his place on
world soccer's top panel of officials after May's polls.
"The (FIFA) position is seen as a vote of confidence on my
part and my personality," Bin Hammam told Reuters in an e-mail.
"If I lose the FIFA seat it means that the majority of
(Asian) associations are not happy with my performance. I do
believe, though, that I have represented Asia well at
international level in the best way I could."
Bin Hammam has never faced a challenge for his place on the
FIFA committee since winning the West Asian seat in 1996.
His future is now in jeopardy, however, after Bahraini
soccer president Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa announced plans
to contest the seat.
Bin Hammam sees Al Khalifa's candidacy as a cleverly
hatched plot to force him from power and has pulled no punches
in accusing the Bahraini of being a stooge for well-heeled East
Asian officials desperate to oust him.
"I do have reason to believe something is going on from
information I have received," said Bin Hammam, who recently
caused outrage by saying he would "cut off the head" of South
Korean officials he claims are colluding to topple him.
It was a comment he later said was a misinterpreted Arabic
"This is something that will be revealed in good time and
if it is necessary," he added.
Bin Hammam has been credited with a number of reforms,
including the AFC's Asia-wide "Vision" grassroots development
programmes and its Goal Project, which has helped provide
soccer facilities for cash-strapped countries.
His critics, however, say they are tired of his autocratic
leadership style, accusing him of mismanaging the AFC and
chiding him for his attempts to move the body out of Kuala
Lumpur, its home for the last 43 years.
The man once touted as a future FIFA president said he had
served the region well and had successfully boosted the profile
of the flagging Asian game.
"AFC had no voice in the international arena before. We
never had representatives at international level to fight for
"That changed after I became a FIFA member. Asia is now
taken seriously... Asian opinions have never been taken for
granted after I was elected to the FIFA executive committee."
"Because of my best efforts, we have today four-and-a-half
places in the FIFA World Cup. If I was not president and a FIFA
member, we would never have had the chance to win these
He rejected claims he had created rifts among the AFC's 46
member countries and took a swipe at long-serving former
secretary-general Peter Velappan, his most fierce and vocal
"I don't know which part of my administration I have
mismanaged," he said.
"In my opinion, I have turned the organisation from being
the property of Velappan and partners to an organisation of
international repute that serves all of Asia."
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