Bin Hammam urges Asia to rally behind him

NEW DELHI - Asia football chief Mohamad Bin Hammam oozed charm and geniality as he urged the continent to rally behind him on Thursday in his bid to unseat FIFA president Sepp Blatter in the governing body's June election.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) chief said the entire region should support this "Asian project" which, if successful, would end Blatter's 13-year reign at the helm.

"I'm hoping that this attempt is going to be an Asian project, being for all of Asia," the 61-year-old Qatari told reporters after a South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) seminar.

"I'm representing all of you in this room and all of you in this continent. I will have to seek your support and I wish that every one of you pray that Asia will succeed in giving a FIFA president this time."

Bin Hammam insisted he had as much chance as his 75-year-old Swiss opponent in the June 1 election in Zurich and claimed the wind of change blowing through the FIFA corridors could further tilt the balance in his favour.

"I gave myself a 50 percent chance and I hope this 50 percent grows," he added.

"It's not about competing against one who has been in the seat for so long. The idea is, a lot of people are looking forward to changes and are looking forward to new ideas. With their support, the number can grow further."

He was virtually assured of SAFF's support by its president Kazi Salahuddin and the All India Football Federation (AIFF) chief Praful Patel.

Bin Hammam, dressed in a sharp business suit, described both as "my dear brother" and hugged Patel before stepping into his luxury car.

"I enjoy a very good relationship with the AIFF and Praful Patel is like a brother. I see India as a supporter of my efforts."

He also promised to focus on developing the game further in the world's two most populous nations.

"Even now you can see how much we are interested to promote the game in India. I'm the president of a confederation which comprises two-thirds of the world population and two-thirds of these people are living in two countries - India and China.

"We are going to strengthen our efforts in these two countries because developing football in India and China means developing the game in two-thirds of Asia."


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