LONDON - If Mohamed Bin Hammam is to
succeed in an expected bid to end Sepp Blatter's 13-year reign
as FIFA president he faces twin challenges in convincing world
football that his vision is clear and his timing is right.
Neither of those tasks will be simple for the 61-year-old
Qatari president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), who
has been hinting for months that he will stand against the
If he does decide to take his former ally on, does he have
any chance of unseating him? Some senior figures in the game are
Reuters sources, who have spoken on condition of anonymity,
believe Bin Hammam should wait until 2015 when Blatter, who will
then be 79, would be unlikely to stand again, giving Bin Hammam
a better chance of winning a straight contest with, perhaps,
UEFA president Michel Platini.
One member of FIFA's executive committee told Reuters: "To
win an election like this, you need to be able to present a real
vision of the future, have a real plan.
"I don't think Mr Bin Hammam has a plan. He has ideas and
talks of reform, but many people in world football like the way
"They do not necessarily want change at the top and, as they
have the vote, they are the people who matter."
A second source told Reuters: "If you look at his own
constituency, the Asian Confederation is split. If he does not
have the backing of his own Confederation, he cannot become the
president of FIFA."
A glance back in time would tend to back up that analysis.
In 1998 Blatter trounced UEFA president Lennart Johansson 111-80
at the FIFA Congress in Paris and succeeded Joao Havelange who
had retired after 24 years in the job.
In 2002 in Seoul Blatter, in the middle of fighting off
allegations of mismanagement, scored a landslide 139-56 vote
victory over African Confederation president Issa Hayatou of
Analysis of the votes afterwards indicated that not all of
Europe backed Johansson and Africa was split in its support of
Which is exactly where Bin Hammam, a strong Blatter
supporter in those two elections, finds himself today after 15
years on the FIFA executive.
In early January this year, Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of
Jordan scored a shock victory at the AFC Congress in Doha over
Chung Mong-joon for the post of Asian vice-president on the FIFA
Prince Ali had the private support of Blatter who played a
political masterstroke by helping to unseat Chung, a potential
future FIFA president and opponent, for a young man who would be
no threat to his own position.
Tellingly, after the Congress Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah
of Kuwait, told reporters in a thinly veiled message to Bin
Hammam: "The 25 who voted for Prince Ali today, will all vote
for Mr Blatter in any presidential election. There is no doubt
Since then, Bin Hammam has been canvassing support and says
he will make up his mind and announce his intentions before the
UEFA Congress in Paris on March 20.
But if he does stand, and was to beat Blatter on June 1,
what sort of man would be at the pinnacle of the world game for
the foreseeable future.
Obviously, as the ninth president of FIFA, he would be the
first in the organisation's 107-year existence not to come from
European stock, for even though Havelange was Brazilian, his
close ancestors were from Belgium.
As an Arab, he would increase the growing influence of the
Middle East region on the game, following Qatar's success in
winning the right to stage the 2022 World Cup finals and the
enormous wealth that the likes of Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dhabi
are investing in European football.
Bin Hammam is not, unlike many influential Middle East
sporting leaders, royalty but a multi-millionaire businessman
who has prospered in Qatar's economic boom over the last 30
years with interests in construction, real estate and drilling.
He also progressed in his sporting career, including a
15-year stint as president of Qatar's top club Al-Rayyan as well
as serving as president of the Qatari Volleyball Association and
Qatari Table Tennis Association.
He became president of the Qatar FA in 1992 and joined
FIFA's executive in 1996. Two years ago he faced a strong
challenge to his Asian presidency from Sheikh Salman of Bahrain,
although he was declared Asian president for another four years
by acclamation in January.
Bin Hammam has charm and poise and is a familiar face at
most major football events around the world, cutting an impressive
figure in a smart business suit or his flowing robes.
He says the time to reform football has come, but whether the
majority of FIFA's 208 members agree it is time to replace
Blatter with him is another matter entirely.
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