Bin Hammam: The multimillionaire who believes he can depose Fifa's kingpin

Bin Hammam's decision to launch campaign in Paris shows he is confident, but Blatter will not go easily
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The Independent Online

It is the $613m question. "Mr President, when is it enough?"

There are many criticisms to be made of Sepp Blatter's 13-year stewardship of Fifa, but when its 208 members assemble in the body's headquarters on the outskirts of Zurich at the end of May to decide whether the 75-year-old Swiss should serve another term running the world's No 1 sport, the bottom line will count.

Over the course of the last cycle which ended with the ground- breaking 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Blatter oversaw a huge rise in revenue resulting in that headline profit figure. The members are duly rewarded.

Yesterday it was Mohamed bin Hammam, a 61-year-old self-made multi-millionaire and former president of the Qatari table tennis association, who asked the question. And the fact that he posed it in Paris, on Blatter's home European turf, suggests he believes he can convince the key powerbrokers in the world game that the answer is now, or rather at the start of June, when the next presidential term begins.

Bin Hammam announced at the end of last week that he would run against Blatter. Last night the two men were guests of Michel Platini, the president of Uefa and a potential kingmaker, on a floating restaurant on the Seine along with the rest of the Uefa delegates in town for this week's congress. If Bin Hammam is to unseat Blatter, who for all the controversies that have surrounded his tenure remains well-supported within the game, then these are the potential voters he has to impress.

Bin Hammam, who also led the Qatari volleyball association and has been on Fifa's executive since 1996, is a man long immersed in sport's administration and politics. He has considerable wealth too, established over 30 years through construction, property and, of course, oil.

He has already been an important player in his country's stunning triumph in bringing the 2022 finals to the Middle East. Rumours of his bid to unseat Blatter have long circulated, but he took his time in announcing his candidacy. This is not a fight he has rushed into and this is not a man used to losing. But then nor is Blatter.

He has just returned from a trip to Asia and it is in Bin Hammam's backyard that the Qatari's problems might lie – as yesterday's virulent attack by a former colleague plainly illustrates. Peter Velappan is firmly in the Blatter camp and he is not alone in the Asian confederation. The Malaysian once accused Bin Hammam of operating a "divide and rule" policy, but there is nobody better than the incumbent at doing exactly that.

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