FIFA presidential candidate Issa Hayatou will support Japan’s attempt to win a place on the executive committee of the game’s governing body in August in return for the nation’s backing as he seeks to unseat incumbent Sepp Blatter later this month.
Hayatou, currently president of the African confederation, will go head-to-head with the Swiss native at the FIFA Congress in Seoul on May 29 in an attempt to end Blatter’s scandal-wracked four-year reign as soccer’s leading politician.
The former Cameroon athlete claims the Japan Football Association will back his campaign to unseat Blatter in return for his support for JFA Vice-President Junji Ogura on August 14, when he will stand for election at the Asian Football Confederation’s congress in Kuala Lumpur.
« Mr. Hayatou has asked for support from Asian countries for Mr. Ogura » said Oh Wan Kon, Vice-President of the Korean Football Association, on behalf of Hayatou. « Because of that, Mr. Hayatou will also support Mr. Ogura and Mr. Ogura and the JFA will support Mr. Hayatou in this election. »
Japan has been unsuccessfully bidding for a place on FIFA’s 24-man decision-making body for a number of years, but has frequently suffered as a result of naivety in the cut-throat world of football’s political game.
Ogura will fight it out for one of Asia’s two places on the committee with Yousef Al Serkal of the United Arab Emirates and incumbents Abdullah Al Dabal of Saudi Arabia and Thailand’s Worawi Makudi.
Hayatou arrived in Japan on Monday as part of his bid to win the presidential race bearing gifts for Asia, a region which is sure to become a hotly-contested battle ground in the final days leading to the vote.
With the nations of the Middle East almost certain to back Blatter, thanks mainly to support from Qatar’s influential Mohammad bin Hammam, Hayatou’s bid for the presidency needs the support of east Asian nations.
As a result, Hayatou has said he will increase the number of places Asian nations have on offer at the next World Cup, in Germany in 2006, if he is successfully elected. In his prospectus, he clearly states a plan to give Asia five places at the next finals with South America’s allocation reduced from four-and-a-half to three.
« There are 10 countries in South America but at the World Cup they have five teams who have qualified. Do you think that is fair? » said Hayatou at a press conference at the Hotel Okura in Tokyo.
South America will be represented this summer by Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay Ecuador and Uruguay, who qualified as a result of winning a play-off against Oceania’s top qualifier Australia.
Hayatou’s plan would see Oceania-FIFA’s weakest confederation-given one guaranteed place while Asia’s allocation would rise from two-and-a-half to five. Japan and South Korea qualified automatically for the 2002 World Cup as cohosts and were not included in the calculations.
« Blatter took away Asia’s World Cup tickets and gave them to South America, » said FIFA Vice-President and KFA president Chung Mong Joon, who is supporting Hayatou.
« This puts Blatter in a contradictory position because he has spent so much money on the development of football, but he is cutting down the opportunities for these countries by reducing their World Cup places. »
Chung has regularly voiced his anger at the reduction of places for Asia at the 2002 World Cup finals which, Blatter claimed, came as a result of the continent’s poor showing in France in 1998.
Copyright 2002 The Daily Yomiuri.
Financial Times Information Ltd – Asia Africa Intelligence Wire
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Source: ASIA AFRICA INTELLIGENCE WIRE
THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/DAILY YOMIURI 13/05/2002