Blatter leaves Bin Hammam behind as US visa is denied to FIFA rival
FIFA president Sepp Blatter (R) and Qatar Football Association (QFA) president, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Ahmed al-Thani, pose with documents after officially appointing Qatar as the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup during a function in Doha on December 16, 2010.
LONDON/ASUNCION – Nicolas Leoz was re-elected, unopposed, at the annual congress of CONMEBOL, the South American confederation, but comparatively few people noticed. All attention, instead, was fixed on visiting FIFA presidential contenders Sepp Blatter and Mohamed Bin Hammam.
Both men attended a South American-style barbecue at the ranch of 82-year-old Leoz after CONMEBOL’s 10 votes at the FIFA election on June 1 had been declared in fabour of incumbent Blatter – despite his recent criticism of the organisation of World Cup 2014 in Brazil.
Julio Grondona, president of the Argentinian federation and FIFA’s senior vice-president, said: “South America is unanimously and resoundingly committed to supporting the candidacy of Joseph Blatter for another period as president of FIFA, there’s no doubt in this regard. That is how we started working together in 1998 and that’s how we want to continue for the good of world football.”
Blatter, in an address to CONMEBOL delegates, thanked them for their loyalty to himself and to FIFA and said he was honoured “to continue playing together on the same pitch.”
Bin Hammam, 61-year-old Qatari who is president of the Asian confederation, was received merely politely. He said: “A new vision, a new opening, new blood, the competition in itself is what we are requiring, not change.”
He may also have misjudged his audience in quoting from a letter sent to him many years ago by former FIFA president Joao Havelange, under whom Blatter served as general secretary.
Bin Hammam said: “Havelange wrote: ‘In the course of my 24 years’ presidency of FIFA I have made many friends but none can compare with your support . . . You have not only been friend but a brother.’” He added: “If I was able to be friend and brother of Havelange, I can be same with you.”
While Blatter claims 50pc support from Africa and Asia and a majority in the rest of the world, Bin Hammam says the issue is not settled.
He said: “We both know where we are strong and where we are weak, and so far I believe none of the decisions has been taken left or right. I will not say where my strength is and where my weaknesses are going to be from but I believe that for the election I have time (to attract more support).
“I started from zero and I believe that as of today I have the same chances as Blatter . . . I think I can be an advantage for football, for the little countries and the big ones, for the developed and the non-developed.”
Blatter flew north from Asuncion to Miami to press his case at the congress of the Central and North American confederation. Bin Hammam will be absent.
Oddly, for a man seeking to govern the entire football globe, he has been unable, reportedly, to secure a visa to enter the United States.