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Sunday, May 29, 2011


The Qatari candidate for this week's FIFA presidential election has withdrawn his cancidacy hours before before he is due to face football's governing body's Ethics Committee hearing into bribery allegations.

Mohammad Bin Hammam, who is the president of the Asian Football Confederation, was due to stand against the current FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, in the organisation's election at FIFA's next Congress, due to be held in the Swiss city of Zurich this coming Wednesday.

The following quote has been culled from the website of British newspaper The Guardian, which in turn was quoted from a statement which appeared on Bin Hammam's own website:

"It saddens me that standing up for the causes that I believed in has come at a great price – the degradation of FIFA's reputation. This is not what I had in mind for FIFA and this is unacceptable," Bin Hammam said in a statement.

"I cannot allow the game that I love to be dragged more and more in the mud because of competition between two individuals.

"The game itself and the people who love it around the world must come first.

"It is for this reason that I announce my withdrawal from the presidential election."

The above statement, to put it bluntly, sounds like a cop-out and/or the result of a behind-the-scenes agreement between Blatter and Bin Hammam. What now for Bin Hammam? Will the general public ever find out the real reason why the Qatari has withdrawn from the FIFA presidential election?

In any case, there will be, one suspects, a huge sigh of relief emanating from FIFA House, which is situated in the small Swiss town of Nyon, and above all from Blatter himself. However, Blatter and FIFA should not become complacent, as pressure will continue to grow for greater transparency in the organisation and an end to the alleged corruption at the highest levels of world football.

Blatter's response to these latest developments will be eagerly awaited; interesting times certainly lie ahead for FIFA and its leader, who decided against attending last evening's European Cup/Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United in order to prepare for this afternoon's FIFA's Ethics Committee hearing, where he will be appearing, along with Trinidad and Tobago's Jack Warner (also known as "Teflon Jack"), to answer the same allegations of bribery as Bin Hammam.

Whatever happens tomorrow (and your correspondent predicts a whitewash), this story will not go away in a hurry.

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