Moves to unseat Asian Football Confederation president Mohammed bin Hammam are gaining momentum with his key challenger claiming support for his “autocratic” rule is evaporating.
Bahrain’s Shaikh Salman Ebrahim Al Khalifa will stand against Bin Hammam for his FIFA executive committee seat on May 8 after several recent moves by the current incumbent upset factions within the governing body.
“I know president Bin Hammam very well. We all supported him in the beginning but I think that vote of trust we gave him, I am very sorry to say, we have created a dictator,” Shaikh Salman said in comments emailed to AFP.
“He is not for all but for himself. We think there is a line that has been drawn and this line has been crossed. His autocratic decisions have divided Asian football.”
Asia has four seats on the FIFA executive committee – South Korea’s Chung Mong-Joon as vice president, Japan’s Junji Ogura from East Asia, Thailand’s Worawi Makudi from Southeast Asia, and Bin Hammam.
The Qatari’s is the only position up for election.
While Bin Hammam’s presidency of the AFC does not expire until 2011, he has indicated that if he loses his FIFA seat then he will also stand down as AFC chief.
Shaikh Salman claims not to be interested in the AFC post, only the FIFA position.
“Whether he stays as AFC president or doesn’t stay does not matter to me,” he said. “I have no intention of running for AFC president.”
Several key Bin Hammam proposals have proved controversial.
They include his plan to move the AFC headquarters out of Malaysia, a proposed 12-year marketing deal with World Sport Group and amendments to the AFC statutes that would strengthen his power.
At a meeting last week, Salman said 19 of the AFC’s 46 affiliated football associations pledged their support to him, leaving him just short of a majority.
A vote will be held at the AFC Congress on May 8 in Kuala Lumpur and the votes of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) could be crucial.
Bin Hammam has been busy visiting the ASEAN region to shore up support with sources close to the president saying he was confident of prevailing, with just Malaysia and Cambodia against him.
However, according to a letter obtained by AFP, his support may not be as solid as he thinks.
Sent by ASEAN Football Federation president Seri Ahmad Rithauddeen to FIFA chief Sepp Blatter, it shows potential discontent.
“The AFC, and in particular its leadership, should strictly follow the FIFA Code of Ethics which states that officials shall represent FIFA, the confederations, associations, leagues and clubs honestly, worthily, respectably, and with integrity,” the letter said.
“I urge you to strongly reiterate this message to the AFC, and in particular, to its leadership.”
Bin Hammam was due in Zurich Monday for FIFA meetings.
“I don’t want to say anything right now,” he told AFP over the weekend. “I will have my say when the time is right.”