A day after word leaked that the head of the Asian Football Confederation, Mohamed bin Hammam, would run against Sepp Blatter for FIFA President, the Qatari made it official in a press conference at AFC headquarters in Kuala Lumpur. Having led the AFC and been a FIFA vice president since 2002, bin Hammam will now challenge Blatter for the top spot of the world's soccer governing body, a post Blatter has held for 13 years.
While often rumored and a constant source of rumbling in soccer circles, accusations of bribery and other unethical actions within FIFA hit the mainstream in the run up to the awarding of the host countries for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup. Two members of FIFA's executive committee were suspended for accepting bribes ahead of the host awarding and Russia and Qatar winning the right to host the world did nothing to quash any rumblings.
In announcing his candidacy for the presidency, bin Hammam did not hesitate to draw focus on the recent criticisms of FIFA under the leadership of Blatter.
"I will consider ... the demands from the public to keep FIFA and football organizations above accusations and suspicion of negative practice; the demands of the public to create an absolute, ethical, democratic and transparent environment within FIFA," bin Jammam said. "I will establish a transparency committee."
Of course, FIFA has made pledges of transparency before to no avail, but bin Hammam will clearly make it a focus of his campaigning. That campaigning will begin immediately when he begins visiting the countries of voters around the world, starting with China in the coming week. The campaigning will be crucial leading up to the June 1 election as bin Hammam predicts the election is basically a toss up.
"I believe my chances are 50-50," bin Hammam said. "Sepp Blatter is an experienced person, he has made a significant contribution to football worldwide, but I believe there is a time limit for everything. There is now a time for a new face and a new heir."