Mohamed bin Hammam, the Asian football chief, has said he will run for the FIFA presidency, posing the first challenge to current world football head Sepp Blatter in nearly a decade.
Bin Hammam made the announcement at a news conference in Kuala Lumpur on Friday, ending months of speculation about his decision.
“Today after careful study, consideration… armed with my love for football I have decided to contest in the upcoming FIFA presidential elections scheduled in June 2011,” the current head of the Asian Football Confederation said.
In his bid to become only the fourth FIFA president in half a century, he said he would support goal line technology if elected to the post. He also promised more transparency in the confederation’s decision-making.
“I want to see more transparency in FIFA and I want to widen the decision-making base and bodies within FIFA,” he said before making the formal announcement for his presidency bid.
“I would engage stakeholders more. We should respect the clubs more, and the clubs should also respect the member associations.”
Bin Hammam, 61, a Qatari national, helped secure the 2022 World Cup for Qatar, providing a stimulus for him to consider football officialdom’s top post.
But he first needs to be nominated by one of FIFA’s 208 national federations, which will vote on June 1 at their congress in Zurich.
Blatter has been nominated by Somalia.
For either to win the election, they must convince two-thirds, or 138, of FIFA’s member nations to vote their way.
For Bin Hammam to win would require an enormous switch of support away from Blatter who beat Issa Hayatou of Cameroon by 139-56 votes in the last election in 2002 and was re-elected by acclamation of the 208 members in 2007.
Since Englishman Stanley Rous assumed office in 1961, FIFA has had just three presidents, and only eight in total since world soccer’s governing body was formed 107 years ago.
Rous held office for 13 years until Brazilian Joao Havelange beat him in an election in 1974; Sepp Blatter succeeded Havelange 24 years later.
Bin Hammam made the jump from Asian soccer circles into the wider international arena when he was elected on to the FIFA executive committee in 1996 and for much of that time was a close ally of Blatter.
He played pivotal roles in Blatter’s election victories in 1998 and 2002 but has become increasingly estranged from the president since then.
Blatter, though 75, clearly has no intention of giving up his position without a fight.
Meanwhile, Grant Wahl, a journalist for Sports Illustrated magazine, has launched a presidential style campagin on the internet in a bid to contest for football world’s top job.
Wahl has until the end of March to convince one of 208 federations to nominate him for the FIFA presidential elections in June.
He spoke to Al Jazeera’s Farrah Esmail about his bid for the presidency: