Four years ago when the FIFA presidency was last up for election, Sepp Blatter retained his post without breaking a sweat because he ran unopposed. That will not be the case this time around because the head of the Asian Football Confederation, Mohamed bin Hammam, is set to run against Blatter for the post and will begin campaigning immediately in advance of the June 1 election.
Bin Hammam, 61, has called for a press conference on Friday in Kuala Lumpur where it is expected that he will announce his candidacy. The Qatari is not only the head of the AFC, but he is also a FIFA vice president and led the successful Qatar bid to host the 2022 World Cup. He will be traveling immediately to the 208 FIFA member countries to begin his campaign for the post.
Blatter, 75, has been been the head of soccer's governing body for three terms, going back to 1998. He succeeded Joao Havelange as the head of FIFA and became the eighth person to hold the post in the 107-year history of the organization. This June, bin Hammam will attempt to become the second non-European to lead FIFA.
After running unopposed in 2007 due to what some described as widespread approval within FIFA of his leadership, Blatter has faced heavy criticism. From allegations of bribery to obtain the presidency in 1998 and retain it in 2002 to the outrage in parts of the world over Russia and Qatar being awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, Blatter's position is not nearly as secure as it once was.
With Blatter's position weakened, bin Hammam will attempt to wrest control of FIFA away from a man who has worked in FIFA since 1975. Part of Blatter's success has been his efforts to spread the game around the world. He led a program that grants a large sum of money to every member country, something that has garnered him support among the smaller countries. He also instituted the rotational policy for the World Cup that mandated the tournament rotate through all of the continents and allowed South Africa and Brazil to host.
Now Blatter will have to fend off the challenge of a man whose country reaped the rewards of Blatter's efforts to spread the game. Following the World Cup host announcement, bin Hammam called for greater transparency in FIFA and said FIFA "needs a lot of improvement" before going on to say that "there is something I can present and do for international football."
The presidential election will take place at FIFA's annual Congress in Zurich on June 1. Per FIFA rules, each of the 208 member nations will hold one vote, and a simple majority will determine the winner. All candidates have until March 31 to receive a nomination from any member nation that will make them eligible for election.