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Bin Hammam is not FIFA’s saviour

22 March 2011

Mohamed Bin Hammam is running for FIFA presidency against Sepp Blatter, but is he really the lesser of two evils? (Flickr: Soccerex)

The prospect of Sepp Blatter’s term as FIFA president has been greeted with much delight in sections of the British press. Blatter has been accused of being anti-English and unfit to control a corrupt institution, and the announcement that Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Chairman Mohamed Bin Hammam will run against him on June 1 has led some to suggest that FIFA will undergo numerous changes under new leadership.

Bin Hammam has made promises that certainly appeal to the English football-supporting public, but it’s odd that very few media outlets have performed any sort of character check on the Qatari.

Particularly worrying are the comments made by the former secretary-general of the AFC Peter Velappan, who told the Straits Times of Singapore that Hammam would be a destructive leader for FIFA.

Since Hammam was re-elected (as the AFC President) in 2006, he has become a despot, turning the confederation into his personal kingdom. There is no democracy, no integrity, no transparency.

Instead of building Asian football, he has used politics to divide the continent. If he does the same to FIFA, he will destroy world football.

Velappan is an ally of Blatter’s, but his comments are not to be ignored. This piece by goal.com also sheds some light on his activities at the AFC:

The manner of Bin Hammam’s leadership style at AFC House is particularly pronounced. Staff are often treated like “schoolchildren”, with Hammam running his confederation and office “like a factory”. His style has its critics and the strict rules with which he runs his current office will come as a culture shock to FIFA’s 300+ employees. Staff who work at AFC House are reportedly unable to enter the office if they are more than 15 minutes late for work, while holiday periods are always set at the end of August and December. The Qatari’s approach simply must change if he is to run FIFA, where employees won’t appreciate been told when to go on vacation.

If his battle for AFC presidency is anything to go by, the contest for FIFA’s leadership could turn nasty. In 2009 he claimed he would cut off the head of the Korean Football Association chief, before hastily backtracking on his remarks. He eventually scraped a majority, with a number of football associations refusing to support his dictatorial style.

Whatever you may think of Sepp Blatter, Mohamed Bin Hammam doesn’t appear to be an adequate solution to the problems at FIFA. Whilst he did achieve success with the Asian Football Confederation, it appears his leadership style will not be much better than Blatter’s. Meanwhile, American journalist Grant Wahl is attempting to garner enough support for his run at the presidency.

The English public and media have long despised Sepp Blatter, as this Guardian poll shows, but remarkably he may even be the lesser of two evils. Either way, no one can be happy about how the world game is goverened.

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