Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Chung or Hammam

AFC president Mohamed Hammam appears to have signaled his intention to challenge Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency in elections next year.

Speaking at a press conference in Seoul, Hammam said: “We would like to see an Asian as the president of FIFA. This represents and reflects the importance of our continent. The AFC’s slogan is ‘The Future is Asia’. And this is true in all spheres of the sport.

“I believe that the time has come for an Asian to come forward for this position. And there is more than one potential candidate available from Asia to lead world football. When we have that person I hope the whole of Asia will unite behind him.”

Blatter, 73, has said he will stand for a fourth term in office at the 2011 FIFA Congress. "I've not finished my mission in football yet. I need more time," he said.

At the AFC Congress last May, Hammam survived a challenge to his FIFA Executive Committee seat following a bitter campaign characterized by personal
attacks, power abuse claims and cash bribes for votes. He retained the seat after drawing 23 votes to the 21 received by Bahraini royal, Sheik Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa.

And he appears to have buried the hatchet with Korea’s Chung Mong-joon, a FIFA vice president and member of the AFC Executive Committee, who had led a coalition of opponents against Hammam at congress. Chung is honorary president of the KFA.

“We have had our differences. We have used our differences for the benefit of Asian football. Today, our agreements are more than our differences,” he said of his relationship with Chung.

“I have to thank Dr Chung for making this happen because in our executive committee meeting in November 2009 he told all the members that the past was past and it was time to re-unite behind the AFC president.”

His comments came at a press conference at the Korean FA headquarters on Tuesday. He was accompanied by Chung and Korea Football Association (KFA) President Cho Chung-yung.

Hammam also spoke about the two Asian bids for the 2022 World Cup, insisting he did not have a preference for Qatar over Korea in attempts to bring the World Cup to the continent.

The Qatari, who has headed the AFC since 2002, tried to clarify his position following his meeting with Korean president Lee Myung-bak on Tuesday.

“For Dr Chung and myself, the first priority is to bring the World Cup to Asia. Who gets it is secondary,” he told reporters. “AFC has 46 member Associations and we are representing their interests.”

Hammam met with the Korean president on Tuesday and welcomed the country’s 2022 bid effort. But he offered warmer words for Qatar in talking up the strengths of the bid at the press conference.

“There are so many advantages if Qatar gets to host the World Cup. All the group matches can be played in venues which are within reasonable distance of each other. So one can watch more than one group match the same day.

“Secondly, Qatar will be representing the wishes and hopes of the Middle East. The Middle-East also has the legitimate right to seek peace through football and an event like the World Cup can replace the sorry story of wars.”

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