BERLIN - World football's governing body FIFA could face a split after Asian football chief Mohamed Bin Hammam announced his presidential bid against incumbent Sepp Blatter, Franz Beckenbauer said on Friday.
Bin Hammam confirmed his intention to run against FIFA president Blatter in Kuala Lumpur on Friday, stating it was time for change and revealing a manifesto centered on transparency.
The 61-year-old Qatari and the 75-year-old Swiss Blatter have endured a strained relationship of late having once been strong friends.
"I think this is a dangerous situation because it could split FIFA into two camps," Beckenbauer, who is stepping down as a FIFA Executive Committee member in the coming days, told reporters.
"One of FIFA's strengths has been its unity. It would be sad if that split were to happen."
Beckenbauer predicted a tough election for the Qatari, who was sworn in unopposed for a third and final term as AFC president in January, and seeks to unseat Blatter after 13 years in charge, to become only the ninth president of FIFA.
"I think it will be difficult for Bin Hammam. Blatter knows FIFA inside out and he has done a very good job until now," the former World Cup winner said.
FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer of the United States anticipates a "political campaign".
"We, the exco members, aren't the ones to vote," he told Reuters.
"It is the national associations and we will be meeting together with them in our region on May 3 in Miami and the question of who our region should support will come up at that time.
"One of the things that we have made a point of trying to do in the past and we will certainly hope to do this time is we try to vote collectively. We make a collective decision in our congress so as to have a greater impact on the results."
"Mr Bin Hammam has served in the capacity of not only the executive committee but as the president of a Confederation for many years now and certainly has the experience to be able to be put forth as a legitimate candidate, we have to give everyone an opportunity of looking at either of the candidacies including the incumbent."
One other name in the frame has been that of American journalist Grant Wahl, who has signalled his intention to stand if he can get a national association to propose him.
Blazer said of him: "Grant, with all respect, started this out as a journalistic exercise. I respect that effort from a journalistic point of view, I don't think that there was an aspect to this that was a purely football politics or operational."
Wahl told Reuters on Friday: "I think it is great that we are going to have multiple candidates in the FIFA presidential election this year, it didn't happen in 2007."
Wahl said he has not secured a nomination yet but has spoken with a number of FA's (including he said two World Cup-winning FAs) and will be going to the UEFA congress in Paris next week to canvas more opinion.