The enmity between the two most powerful men in Asian football plunged new depths today when Fifa vice-president Chung Mong-joon said his rival Mohamad Bin Hammam was suffering mental problems and acting like a criminal.
Hammam, the Asian Football Confederation president, is facing a challenge for his seat on Fifa's executive committee from Bahrain's Sheik Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa, with the vote on Friday at an AFC Congress. Hammam said he will also stand down as AFC president if he loses.
Hammam had accused Chung of bankrolling Salman's campaign, something the Hyundai powerbroker denied.
South Korean Chung told a news conference Thursday that Hammam is "acting like the head of a crime organization. It looks like Mr. Hammam is suffering from mental problems. I want to advise him to consider going to hospital."
The two men have a long history of animosity. Both had been considered as possible future Fifa presidents. While Chung outranks Hammam within Fifa, the situation is reversed within the AFC.
Chung said Asian football is facing its most "critical challenge" in history with the 46 member nations of AFC "deeply divided and full of distrust and hatred."
"If he (Hammam) continues on the current path, it will be very difficult for our Asian football community to stay together," Chung said. "Asian football is now suffering from a serious lack of transparency, democracy and rule of law."
Hammam's critics accuse him of being an autocrat who has usurped the powers of AFC's executive committee and its members. They also say he has silenced critics and treated the AFC as a personal fiefdom.
Hammam caused uproar earlier this year when he barred five countries — Kuwait, Mongolia, East Timor, Afghanistan and Laos — from Friday's vote on procedural grounds. He has said he would ignore a Fifa directive that found them eligible.
The AFC's 24-member executive committee met Thursday and upheld Hammam's decision on Kuwait. But they recommended that the other four countries be allowed to vote.
However, Chung said there is still confusion on whether they can vote or not, and a final decision would be taken by the AFC Congress on Friday, just before the vote.
Hammam says Kuwait is ineligible to vote as its football association was being run by an interim body. He barred the other four countries because of their non-participation in regional competitions over the past two years.
The election campaign has been mired in a raft of no-holds-barred allegations and counter-allegations by both sides.
Hammam's anger with Chung and the South Korean Football Association was made plain early in the campaign, when the Qatari said he would chop off the head of Korean FA president Cho Chung-yun. He later said the Arabic words he used were not literal, and akin to the English saying "heads will roll".
Chung accused Hammam of using Fifa's Goal Program, which has millions of dollars at its disposal for developing the game, as his "private fund."
"Tomorrow's election ... represents an opportunity for us to choose a new leader who can put Asian football back in the right direction," he said.Reuse content