A former top official of the Asian Football Confederation slammed Mohamed bin Hammam on Monday for challenging Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency, saying the organization would be “doomed” if the Qatari wins.
Peter Velappan, a Blatter ally who was the AFC’s general secretary from 1978 to 2007, said bin Hammam’s pledge to bring “new blood” into the leadership of world football was “the joke of the century.”
The Malaysian’s comments underscore bitter divisions that could increasingly become public following last week’s announcement by bin Hammam, the current AFC president, that he would run to replace the 75-year-old Blatter.
“FIFA will be doomed if Hammam became the president,” Velappan told The Associated Press. “It would be very detrimental.”
Bin Hammam announced his candidacy on Friday, mounting the first serious challenge to the FIFA head in nearly a decade.
Bin Hammam was travelling in France on Monday and could not immediately be reached for comment, according to a representative of AFC headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.
Velappan claimed that bin Hammam had led the AFC like “an autocrat” since becoming president of the organization in 2002 and was insincere in his pledge to bring more democracy, transparency and integrity to FIFA.
“These are the very things he has not done in AFC,” he said. “There is no democracy in AFC.”
He added he believed bin Hammam would try to “buy up” support to win the June 1 vote in Zurich.
“He is definitely an underdog but you can’t rule out his influence,” Velappan said.
Bin Hammam recently spearheaded Qatar’s winning bid for the 2022 World Cup. The 61-year-old still needs the formality of being nominated by one of FIFA’s 208 national federations to run for the presidency.
In announcing his bid for president, bin Hammam said he would broaden FIFA’s decision-making power and spread its wealth if elected. He proposed creating a new FIFA board to replace the existing executive committee, which some regard as concentrating power in too few hands.
“Sepp Blatter is a very experienced person and has made a significant contribution to the development of the game worldwide when he was a general secretary and when he was elected as president,” bin Hammam said. “But I also believe there is always a time limit for everything and now the time is for new faces, new blood, new air, too.”
Blatter, who has been nominated for re-election by Somalia, has led FIFA for 13 years.
“Blatter needs this (fourth term as president) to fight corruption in football, including FIFA,” and to tackle the problem of illegal football betting, Velappan said. “This is not the time to challenge.”
Bin Hammam has long held ambitions to lead FIFA, which has had only eight presidents in its 111-year history. If elected, he would be the first Asian to hold the post.