With less than 24 hours to go until what could be a historic announcement at AFC House in Kuala Lumpur, Mohamed Bin Hammam is playing his cards very close to his chest.
So much so that not even the AFC president's personal press officer knows whether he’ll be announcing plans to run against FIFA president Sepp Blatter this year. A source close to both the game’s organising body and Bin Hammam himself has told Goal.com that the 61 year-old will notify his press officer only half-an-hour before his announcement is made so that a release may be prepared.
Bin Hammam will make a decision that will define his career in football administration.
If he announces that he’ll immediately challenge Blatter for FIFA’s top job, the implications for the game’s 208 member associations will be far-reaching both in the immediate and long-term future.
Goal.com takes a looks at the key factors and political machinations affecting any potential Bin Hammam campaign.
Why He'll Challenge Now
Warner Support: CONCACAF president Jack Warner controls the Central American and Carribean Zone of his confederation, which equates to 32 of the 35 votes that will be cast in the FIFA presidential race. This is the region where any potential battle between Blatter and Bin Hammam will be won and lost and if the latter decides to run this year, it’s a sign that he’s been given assurances by Warner of CONCACAF’S support. Warner has strong ties with Blatter but Bin Hammam might capitalise on the region’s lack of World Cup places and offer them a full extra berth in order to sway the associations.
"CONCACAF president Jack Warner controls the Central American and Carribean Zone of his confederation, which equates to 32 of the 35 votes that will be cast in the FIFA presidential race. This is the region where any potential battle between Blatter and Bin Hammam will be won and lost."
European Backlash: Certain western European nations, England most notably, are ready to back a challenger to Blatter and will throw their support behind Bin Hammam if he runs now. This is largely a backlash for the recent World Cup bid results and if Blatter can secure CONCACAF, he’ll need only a handful of UEFA votes in order to gain the edge during his campaign.
Frosty Relations: Bin Hammam’s support for Blatter was crucial to his winning the 1998 FIFA elections, during which time he was able to secure the use of the emir of Qatar’s personal jet to take his campaign through Africa. Said to be a continent that would throw its support behind Blatter’s opponent, Lennart Johansson, Blatter’s travels turned the election on its head and secured him victory.
However, the relationship between the two men turned frosty in 2009, when Bin Hammam was the subject of a coup within his own confederation to remove him from the FIFA Executive Committee. The Qatari expected Blatter to lend his support when he arrived for the AFC Conference that year but it was not forthcoming, the president remaining politically neutral. The divide between the two individuals was made clear in the aftermath.
Royal Support: Bin Hammam won’t operate without the support of the emir of Qatar. Previously he had been instructed to keep quiet on the issue of the FIFA presidency as his home country fought for World Cup hosting rights and he largely did so. Now that Qatar have won, it has allowed Bin Hammam room to manoeuvre, knowing that it won’t jeopardise their chances of hosting the 2022 tournament.
Why He Won't
Michel Platini: “Platini would not be receptive to the idea of Bin Hammam challenging Blatter,” says a Goal.com source. Platini’s close relationship with Blatter has its origins in the 1998 World Cup in France and for that reason the UEFA president won’t challenge now, despite his aspirations to replace him. If Bin Hammam on the other hand challenges and is successful, it would likely give him eight years in office, by which time it may be too late for Platini to nominate himself. Blatter’s retirement in four years' time would be the perfect opportunity for Platini to run, and for that reason he will garner UEFA support to keep Blatter in power until then.
“Platini would not be
receptive to the idea
of Bin Hammam
Blatter Entrenched: Sepp Blatter’s power is characterised by a support base that spreads itself throughout the world, particularly in developing nations. Largely through the work of his Goal project – of which Bin Hammam is an important part – he has provided a great deal of funding for national associations who won’t quickly forget his generosity.
Is He The Right Man?
Authoritarian: The manner of Bin Hammam’s leadership style at AFC House is particularly pronounced. Staff are often treated like “schoolchildren”, with Hammam running his confederation and office “like a factory”. His style has its critics and the strict rules with which he runs his current office will come as a culture shock to FIFA’s 300+ employees. Staff who work at AFC House are reportedly unable to enter the office if they are more than 15 minutes late for work, while holiday periods are always set at the end of August and December. The Qatari’s approach simply must change if he is to run FIFA, where employees won’t appreciate been told when to go on vacation.
A Lesser Of Two Evils: As a result of the lack of transparency with which his organisation is run, Sepp Blatter’s reputation has taken a beating over the years, coming to a head with the controversy surrounding the recent World Cup bid process. The popular perception is that any change would be positive at the top, though Bin Hammam’s own methods are questionable. After retaining his seat on the FIFA Ex. Co. he rejected calls for an inquiry into the election process and results, deeming it a closed case.
Moderniser: There’s no doubt that Bin Hammam has changed the face of Asian football, elevating it to a level of professionalism and financial strength previously unseen. This is reflected in his creation of the Asian Champions League, inclusion of Australia in the AFC and establishment of the Vision Asian project. He transformed a confederation which had become something of a laughing stock into a potential future powerbase of the football world after his takeover from Ahmad Shah in 2002. We could expect similarly pioneering work with FIFA, an organisation that has been criticised in the past for an inability to embrace modern needs of the game.
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