x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Time for Blatter to go, says Mohamed bin Hammam

Asian football chief Mohamed bin Hammam calls for change in leadership at Fifa after allegations of corruption leave image of football's world governing body tarnished.

Sepp Blatter, left, and Mohamed bin Hammam in happier times.
Sepp Blatter, left, and Mohamed bin Hammam in happier times.

DOHA // Sepp Blatter has been at Fifa for too long and needs to be replaced as president of football's governing body, Mohamed bin Hammam, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president said yesterday.

Less than two months after helping Qatar land the 2022 World Cup following a scandal-filled voting process, bin Hammam said the Fifa president's longevity in office at football's governing body has contributed to the perception that the organisation is corrupt.

"Everybody is going to accuse us as corrupted people because maybe people see Mr Blatter has stayed a long time in Fifa," bin Hammam said in a one-on-one interview with The Associated Press.

"Thirty-five years in one organisation is quite a long time. No matter how clean you are, honest or how correct you are, still people will attack you. You are going to be defenceless. That is why I believe change is the best thing for the organisation."

The 74-year-old Blatter - who joined Fifa in 1975 as technical director, became secretary general in 1981 and president in 1998 - is up for re-election for a fourth four-year term as president in June, and so far no one is running against him.

Although bin Hammam has said that he wants to someday replace Blatter, he declined to say whether he would challenge the Swiss incumbent this year.

"I did not make up my mind yet," bin Hammam said. "I would rather wait and see."

But the 61-year-old bin Hammam is hoping that someone will run against Blatter.

"I'm actually seeking to see competition within Fifa for the post. I would prefer to see two candidates proposing themselves, or maybe more than two proposing themselves to the congress of Fifa," bin Hammam said. "Competition is good for the organisation, whether president or any other posts. Competition is the best way to make the organisation vibrant and alive."

As for suggestions that Qatar might host the 2022 World Cup in January, to avoid the searing summer heat, bin Hammam said it was "premature" for Fifa to be even talking about it.

"We in Fifa should stop acting on behalf of people who are going to be in power in the future," he said.

"There will be a different executive committee in Fifa which will be in power that day. Let them decide what is best for 2022.

"Why are we rushing? Why are you in hurry to decide something for 2022?"

Bin Hammam also continued to defend suspended Fifa executives Amos Adamu of Nigeria and Reynald Temarii of Tahiti, who were accused of taking bribes and trading votes before last month's election of host countries for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. The 2018 World Cup went to Russia.

Both men, who deny wrongdoing, have appealed their sanctions and will have a hearing on February 2-3.

"I believe none have asked for anything for their own benefit," bin Hammam said.