South Korean billionaire Chung Mong-Joon confirmed Thursday he was joining the race to replace FIFA president Sepp Blatter, and painted likely front-runner Michel Platini as an untrustworthy stooge tainted by scandal.
A former FIFA vice president and Asian football powerbroker, Chung described himself as a corruption-free candidate with a global, non-Eurocentric vision to take football’s governing body into a new era.
The billionaire scion of Korea’s Hyundai group said he would formally announce his candidacy to replace Blatter next week and also pledged that, if elected, he would only serve a single, four-year term.
“During those four years I hope I can fulfil my agenda, making FIFA a true, sporting NGO — open, transparent, moral, ethical and truly global,” Chung told AFP during an interview in Seoul.
“I don’t want to be a FIFA president who just enjoys the luxury of the presidential office,” he added.
The 63-year-old is among a shortlist of declared and likely candidates that includes the likes of UEFA president Platini and Prince Ali bin al Hussein of Jordan who ousted Chung from the FIFA executive board in 2011.
Platini, who confirmed his candidacy on Wednesday, is currently seen as the favourite and is believed to have the backing of four of FIFA’s six regional confederations.
Blatter decided to stand down shortly after being re-elected as president in June with scandal-hit FIFA’s reputation in tatters. He announced last week that the election of his successor would be held on February 26, 2016.
— Questions for Platini —
Platini has positioned himself since just prior to last year’s World Cup as one of the most outspoken opponents to Blatter’s regime, but Chung argued that the Frenchman was fatally tainted by his past associations with the president.
“Platini is good for football, but whether he can be a good FIFA president? I don’t think so. He is a product of the current FIFA system,” Chung said.
“There are several questions we can have whether Platini can symbolise a new era for FIFA or whether he is simply a protege of Blatter.
“I want to ask Michel whether he really believes that he can cut off his relationship with Blatter; whether he can reveal all the wrongdoings, corruptions, criminal acts committed by Blatter; whether he can really disclose all those things,” Chung said.
The South Korean is likely to prove a strong candidate as he retains enormous influence within Asian football and certainly has the financial clout to run an effective campaign.
And he is quick to play up his past record of clashing with Blatter.
In 2002, Chung was one of a number of executive committee members who actively campaigned against Blatter’s re-election, backing African rival Issa Hayatou and accusing the FIFA president of misusing funds.
— Blatter blame game —
In the interview, Chung ridiculed Blatter for denying any responsibility for the scandal that has engulfed FIFA and pointing accusatory fingers at those around him.
“President Blatter is like a cannibal eating his parents and then crying he’s an orphan. He tries to blame everybody except himself,” Chung said.
“If I get elected… I’ll try to have more transparency and development. I’ll try to eliminate corruption,” he added.
Swiss authorities investigating FIFA are focusing attention on the shock decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar — a choice Platini voted for although he insists he did not bow to pressure from then French president Nicolas Sarkozy and the Emir of Qatar.
Asked if he would consider taking the competition away from Qatar if elected president, Chung said it was too early to comment given the absence of any “concrete evidence of wrongdoing” by the emirate.
However, he did pledge to release, in its entirety, the report FIFA commissioned from former US district attorney Michael Garcia into the bidding processes that awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments to Russia and Qatar.
Garcia submitted his findings in September last year, but FIFA has repeatedly refused to publish the full report.
“It goes without saying that it should be released,” Chung said.
“It’s a serious criminal act, trying to hide important information from the public. It is not a matter of discretion, it’s a matter of criminal behaviour,” he added.
Candidates have until October 26 — exactly four months before the vote — to come forward. – Agence France-Presse