Mohamed bin Hammam, the Fifa presidential challenger who yesterday began wooing the Uefa delegates who will prove pivotal to his chances of unseating Sepp Blatter, has challenged his rival to a TV debate.
The Qatari said he was also open to the possibility of making a deal with Michel Platini, the Uefa president who is thought to have ambitions to run for the Fifa job himself in 2015 and so is likely to be opposed to the challenger.
“I am not going to lie to you and say that I am not going to talk to Michel about possible co-operation in the future, this has to be put frankly. I’m not telling you I am not going to do it but let’s wait and see,” he said.
Platini’s ambitions to stand in 2015, following another four-year term as Uefa president, would be dealt a blow if Bin Hammam won in June. But, if Bin Hammam offered to stand aside as Fifa president after one four-year term, it could impact on Platini’s thinking.
“Everybody has the right to an ambition but there is nothing to stop them contesting in 2015, I am not blocking other people from coming,” Bin Hammam said. He is prepared to face Blatter, whom he did not regret backing with financial and practical support during his campaigns in 1998 and 2002, in a live presidential-style TV debate.
“In 1998 and 2002 Mr Blatter was very new, very active and contributed a lot to the game but now things are different. Blatter has been in charge for 13 years and at Fifa in total for 35 years,” he said.
“I’m 61 years old and have said to everyone that I have something to contribute. If we’re not given the chance today, then when? Mr Platini is maybe opposing me as he has the ambition to be president in 2015 but I have the ambition to be president in 2011. If we don’t get our chance today, when will we get our chance?”
Bin Hammam, who travelled to Paris for the Uefa Congress on the latest leg of a global tour of the various confederations that together make up the 208 votes on offer, underlined his campaign message that Fifa’s reputation needed to be rehabilitated in the eyes of the public.
“At the end of the day we are an organisation that belongs to the public, it doesn’t belong to us. We have to make ourselves very clear to people. This is one of my missions for the future,” he said.
“I think I can rehabilitate Fifa’s reputation. This is my vision and this is my goal. If I fail, then I fail. I’m looking for the support of everybody. I don’t have the support of everyone in Asia yet but have to work for it.”
Bin Hammam’s presidential nomination has been backed by Yemen, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Thailand. The Asian Football Confederation president said that he planned to see the Football Association next month and also had a meeting scheduled with Jack Warner, the controversial Concacaf president who presides over an influential bloc of 37 votes.
“I’m going to see Jack Warner and their executive committee to talk to them. Traditionally they vote as a bloc, they have 37 votes and, if they decide to vote together, I think they can decide this. I will be trying to see him next month.”
The FA was forced to deny that it had made up its mind to support Bin Hammam, saying the matter had yet to be discussed formally. Board sources had said the FA would back any challenger to Blatter.
Bin Hammam will visit the FA in a fortnight as part of a two-month campaign to win hearts and minds. The challenger says he has to “market” himself and present his manifesto in person to the new FA chairman, David Bernstein.
Bin Hammam said a key part of his pitch would be a drive to build bridges with the club game after relations between Fifa and the most powerful clubs recently plumbed new depths following a series of clashes over the international calendar and compensation.
“If I am president, I will open the platform for the clubs to express themselves more fairly and to exchange views with the member associations on the grounds that we are all a football family and we should help each other,” he said.
“I know our interests are sometimes crossing each other but we can’t live in this world without understanding.”
The election for the new president will take place at Fifa’s two-day congress in Zurich, which starts on 31 May.