No way around it. This is just going to be a football-heavy week. Sorry for those who would rather read about other things.
I saw this terrifying news story, and for the love of the game I had to comment on it. Mohamed bin Hammam, the head of the AFC, has all but announced his intention to challenge Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency. Bin Hammam claims he has not made up his mind and wants to see if anyone else will run–but yeah, he’s running. The gist of his comments are that FIFA is seen as corrupt because Blatter has been there too long. He’s also advocating for goal line technology. Is there any other way to interpret this than a presidential run? It goes without saying that bin Hammam completely ignores that the reason everyone is saying FIFA is corrupt is because of the horrific Word Cup bidding process which led to Qatar 2022–bin Hammam’s home nation and the bid that he championed. (Bin Hammam also has the gall to defend to FIFA ExCo members who were suspended after being caught asking for bribes.)
If (when) bin Hammam does challenge Blatter, I have no idea how this would play out, but no matter how it does, football will be the loser. Both Blatter and bin Hammam are awful choices. Bin Hammam will have the entire AFC behind him, but beyond that I don’t know who else would support him. Blatter was never completely honest about his whole “spread the World Cup around” philosophy. Yes, he it takes the World Cup to new places, but it has always been in part a way to shore up his own power base. The 2010 World Cup was a way of winning over CAF, and turning back a challenge to his reign the last time. A Qatari World Cup bid was supposed to align the AFC behind Blatter. It probably would have except that Qatar was a such a spectacularly bad idea that FIFA has almost nonstop had to deal with the fallout. Blatter, as is his wont, opened his mouth and let the terrible ideas flow. World anger did not abate, but this enraged bin Hammam.
I cannot imagine that Jack Warner would do vote against Blatter given how much power Warner now has, and CONCACAF does what Warner tells it to do. I can see a lot of UEFA nations, particularly in Western Europe taking the opportunity to get revenge on Blatter for what they saw was a corrupt and unfair (and humiliating) process. Platini does not exert the same control over UEFA that a Warner or a bin Hammam does over their respective regions. If anyone has more insight into OFC and CONMEBOL, please share. I can see OFC being divided (i.e. New Zealand on one side, the rest of OFC on the other), but the relationship between Blatter and CONMEBOL is a mystery to me. Certainly Blatter has warm relationships with those aging jackals of Brazil (Ricardo Teixeira) and Argentina (Julio Grondona), and he deflected and then attacked when the BBC show Panorama reported that Teixeira and CONMEBOL President Nicolás Léoz were taking bribes. Also Blatter was the protege/handpicked successor of João Havelange, who naturally claims that FIFA is pristine as the driven snow.
A bin Hammam candidacy is ever more indication of Qatar’s attempt to completely hijack the sport, which I have discussed numerous times. Blatter has not helped his own case though. Given the sustained negative attention focused on FIFA for the past two months, there is blood in the water. FIFA is nothing if not full of sharks.