Tag Archives: Mohamed Bin Hammam

Beijing And Tokyo Take Their Rivalry Into Football Administration

Even in the world of international football administration, Beijing and Tokyo don’t let their rivalry drop. Candidates hoping to replace the scandal-tainted Mohamed Bin Hammam as president of the Asian Football Confederation are already jockeying for position. Zhang Jilong, who is filling the position in an acting capacity following bin Hamman’s suspension by dint of being the AFC’s senior vice-president, is a candidate, but far from the favorite to head the 46 nation confederation permanently.

Although he can count on the support of the majority of the 10 members of the East Asian Football Federation (EAFF), he won’t be able to rely on that of Japan, which already thinks China has too much influence over the EAFF though itself, South Korea (and Australia) are the region’s leading soccer powers on the field. Japan’s own candidate is likely to be Kohzo Tashima, general secretary of the Japanese FA. If he runs he can expect South Korea’s support but not that of China and its EAFF allies. Beijing sees little chance of Tokyo being helpful to its push to secure a FIFA World Cup, and vice versa. Beyond that lies the bigger rivalry.

The internal regional bickering is likely to mean that a candidate from West Asia such as the Bahraini Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa will emerge victorious. East Asia’s football federations will be left bewailing the continuing shift of power from East to West to the detriment of the growth of the sport in what should be some of its most dynamic countries.


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A Helping Bin Hammam Hand For China’s Football?

Mohamed bin Hammam, the Qatari businessman whose canditure challenging incumbent Sepp Blatter for the presidency of world football’s governing body, FIFA, was announced earlier this week, says he is running on his record of raising  the profile of Asian football, which is the fastest growth market in the world sport. “Asia is the future not only on the field but off the field,” he said during a campaign stop in Seoul this week.

Bin Hammam heads the confederation of Asian national football associations and was instrumental in helping his native emirate land the World Cup in 2022. One country that could use his help is China, which trails in the shadows of East Asia’s footballing powerhouses, South Korea and Japan–it ranks 76th in FIFA’s world rankings; the other two are in the top 30–yet the Chinese Football Association (FA) harbors ambitions to host a World Cup.

It is not just a lack of playing success. The country’s professional league has been wracked by a series of match-fixing, illegal gambling and bribery scandals and the FA has had its top administrators cleared out with some put on trial on corruption charges. Matters have reached the point where its main sponsor, Italian tyre manufacturer, Pirelli  (the company makes truck tyres in Shandong), scrapped its three-year contact worth a reported $6.8 million a year a year early just ahead of the opening of the new season last Friday. The league also doesn’t have a national TV coverage. State broadcaster CCTV is said not to be prepared to show games until after the corruption trial of former football association head Nan Yong.

While it is still far too early to prognosticate, should bin Hammam win the FIFA presidency vote on June 1, the most splendid thing he could do for football in China during his term of office might just be to be the FIFA president to announce that China had won the bidding to host the 2026 World Cup. But Chinese football has to do a lot of internal housecleaning first.

Update: Another sign of Asia’s growing importance to football and, indeed, all Western professional sports: The Wall Street Journal’s Exchange blog draws a straight line between China and the stake taken by U.S. basketball star LeBron James (the American Yao Ming) in Liverpool, the English Premier League football club sponsored by Hong Kong’s Standard Chartered bank and owned by Fenway Sports Group, American owners of the Boston Red Sox baseball team and which will be marketing James globally as part of their new deal.

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