Mohamed Bin Hammam seeking to unseat Joseph 'Sepp' Blatter as FIFA president
Mohamed Bin Hammam, the 61-year-old Qatari who is president of the Asian Football Confederation, announced Friday that he will try to unseat Joseph "Sepp" Blatter as the president of FIFA, world soccer's governing body.
Making the announcement in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Bin Hammam said Blatter had held onto the post long enough and that it was time for a change. "I believe my chances are 50-50," he said.
"Sepp Blatter is a very experienced person and has made significant contribution to football worldwide when he was a general secretary and when he was elected as president. The world knows him very well. But I also believe there is always a time limit for everything and now the time is for new faces, new blood, new air too."
Blatter, 75, has been FIFA's president since 1998. He took over from his mentor, Brazil's Joao Havelange, who was FIFA president for 24 years. Reacting to the news, one of Blatter's key supporters, FIFA executive committee member Franz Beckenbauer, said he feared the move could be divisive.
"I think it is a dangerous situation because it could split FIFA into two camps," Germany's former World Cup-winning player and coach said. "One of its strengths has been its unity. It would be sad if that were to happen. "I think it will be difficult for Bin Hammam. Blatter knows FIFA inside out and he has done a very good job until now."
The last time Blatter was challenged for the FIFA presidency was in 2002, when Issa Hayatou, president of the Confederation of African Football, stood against him and was beaten by a vote of 139-56 among FIFA member nations.
FIFA membership now stands at 208 nations, and Bin Hammam will shortly begin visiting several key countries in an effort to build support for his campaign. England, for instance, has already indicated it would support him. In making his announcement, Bin Hammam promised several major changes if he wins the June 1 election in Zurich, Switzerland.
For one thing, he said he would increase the size of the executive committee from 24 members to 41, granting greater representation to FIFA nations outside of Europe and South America.
-- Grahame L. Jones
Photo: Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Mohammed bin Hammam speaks at a press conference at AFC house in Kuala Lumpur on March 18, 2011. Hammam declared that he will throw his hat in the ring to contest the FIFA presidency. Credit: Saeed Khan / AFP/Getty Images