Blatter wants Prince Who? to be new FIFA boss
By Andrew Jennings
Sunday January 2, 2011
Tiny Qatar, victors of the opaque contest to host the World Cup in 2022, will be the venue on Thursday for Sepp Blatter’s next manoeuvre to tighten his chokehold on FIFA.
Blatter has been infuriated for the past decade by the independent-minded Korean FIFA vice-president Chung Mong-joon and his frequent threats to launch a challenge for the presidency.
Blatter has never had the courage to confront billionaire Chung, a member of the family controlling the Hyundai conglomerate. Now he has found his Trojan pony, an Arab princeling, and he’s running him at the congress of the Asian Football Confederation this week.
It smells like a deal done in the Doha souk. Blatter steered 2022 to Qatar – in return the gas-rich, money-no-object statelet does the ‘persuading’ to enlist enough votes to rid their benefactor of his pestilent adversary.
The wannabe FIFA veep is Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan. He’s 35, a Sandhurst-trained chap who appears to have been passed over for the chance to join other sporty royals at the International Olympic Committee.
Prince Ali, president of the 13-strong West Asian football federation, has opted instead to be elevated to FIFA’s elite. There’s 46 Asia-wide votes available and topping his list of election pledges is the exciting idea of a regional professional women’s league.
CHECKING OUT THE VIRGINS
Practically, that may be a step too far for some of his sponsors – principally Yemen, Oman, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates who according to fifa.com, currently don’t employ a national women’s coach. Neither does World Cup winner Qatar and in Saudi a leading religious scholar condemns the game because it ‘could damage a girl's hymen.’ How does he know?
We’d all pay good money to attend a public debate, a sideshow at the Asian congress, between this uniquely qualified sports gynaecologist and Herr Blatter putting his well-known argument that women footballers should play in tight shorts, the better to display – and so commercialise - their buttocks.
Check out Prince Ali’s YouTube video. Some might find it unconvincing. His managers never give him the chance to speak more than a few words without abrupt picture changes, giving the unfair impression that he can’t easily manage a stand-alone sentence.
The Prince’s manifesto can also be confusing. ‘I continue to believe in the power of unity to develop football’ he tells us but whatever this may be a continuation of – or what it actually means - his proposal for an easy-to-access development fund is bound to be popular.
Back in the sandpit, Blatter has been determined to rid himself of Chung since 2002 when the Korean accused him of ‘arrogance’ because the FIFA president won’t reveal what he pays himself. The animosity boiled over again this autumn when horrified staff in FIFA House listened at the President’s door as Chung shouted about the ISL bribes scandal.
FANS GET A GOOD CLUBBING
Prince Ali says he wants ‘transparency, openness and integrity’ at FIFA so I’ve emailed to ask if, elected or not, he will agitate to have Herr Blatter’s salary and perks extracted from FIFA’s list of state secrets and made public – and I’m hoping that one day he will make the time to get back to me.
I’d be happier trusting Prince Ali to fill one of FIFA’s most important positions if he’d announce plans to refer the scandal of the $100 million dollars in kickbacks for World Cup contracts, that I revealed in a BBC Panorama programme a few weeks ago, to their Ethics Committee. The IOC is on the case – can FIFA be far behind?
Prince Ali makes much of his devotion to youth but many young Jordanians are unsure after cops gave a good clubbing to 250 of them following disturbances three weeks ago at a top league game in Amman. A reporter who tried to photograph injured fans was himself beaten up and arrested.
If the plan dreamed up by Blatter and Qatar’s executive committee member Mohamed bin Hammam to replace Chung with the young prince succeeds it will put the control of Asian football firmly in the Gulf and remote from the rest of the vast region.
But if Chung survives he may launch a bare-knuckle fight to oust Blatter at FIFA’s congress at the end of May.
The Melbourne Age