Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hammam and Chung go public

Mohamed bin Hammam and Dr Chung Mong-joon have finally gone public with their new-found love for one another.

The pair held a press conference in Seoul earlier this week and extracts from it were posted on the Asian Football Confederation's website yesterday.

They make interesting reading...especially Hammam's comments relating to the FIFA presidency and towards Chung. While stopping short of a declaration of his intention to run for the top post in world football, it's not hard to read between the lines.

While the two have now gone public with their alliance, the build-up to this has been going on since the votes were counted to determine who won the bitterly contested battle for the FIFA Executive Committee seat in May. The pair had been on opposite sides of the divide but, within weeks, rumours were filtering out that Hammam and Chung had met for lunch on at least two occasions to discuss the possibility of working together in the future.

On Hammam's side, the catalyst for those talks lay at his sense of being betrayed by FIFA president Sepp Blatter, a man he has long referred to in glowing and deferential terms. Hammam worked exceptionally hard behind the scenes to ensure Blatter won the presidency in Paris back in 1998 - securing, for example, the Emir of Qatar's private 747 for Blatter's use during his campaign. However, those days are now long gone with Blatter having lobbied in the background against Hammam last year.

For Chung, the motivation is simple. The South Korean has been one of Blatter's most outspoken critics and he has long harboured a desire to remove him from office. He backed - unsuccessfully - the candidatures of Lennart Johannson in 1998 and Issa Hayatou in 2002, so he will be hoping that his support of Hammam will be third time lucky. The showdown between the two - and that's assuming no other candidates throw their hats in the ring - will be held in mid-2011 at the FIFA Congress.

Those within the Hammam/Chung camp already believe they will have enough support to defeat the incumbent but there's still a long way to go in this contest.

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