FIFA rivals seek Euro votes

2011-03-21 15:19

Paris - FIFA president Sepp Blatter and election challenger Mohamed bin Hammam stepped up their rivalry on Monday by seeking support from European football leaders.

Blatter and Asian Football Confederation President Bin Hammam have accepted longstanding invitations to attend the UEFA Congress.

The 53-nation meeting opens on Tuesday and will give UEFA president Michel Platini a second four-year term unopposed.

Platini has asked both candidates to be guests at UEFA's official dinner on Monday evening, which will be held on a boat on the River Seine. Leaders of FIFA's other confederations are also attending.

As incumbent FIFA president, Blatter gets to address UEFA members on Tuesday morning at the start of the Congress at the Grand Palais.

Europe's football agenda was overshadowed by world events when Qatar's Bin Hammam confirmed last Friday he would try to end Blatter's 13-year hold on the game's most powerful job.

UEFA members make up more than one quarter of the maximum 208 FIFA voters that Blatter and Bin Hammam will attempt to woo before a June 1 election in Zurich.

The winner needs a two-thirds majority of valid votes cast in the first ballot, or a majority in the second. FIFA has set an April 1 deadline for other candidates to be nominated by a single member federation.

The first FIFA election since 2002 - when Bin Hammam helped manage Blatter's successful campaign - promises a hard-fought contest between former allies.

Platini has no such worries retaining his presidential office on Tuesday.

However, he could play a fascinating role in the fight between his two FIFA Executive Committee colleagues.

The former France playing great was mentored in football politics by Blatter after being chosen to organise the successful 1998 World Cup staged in his home country.

However, Bin Hammam has recently revealed he offered to support any Platini bid to take on Blatter in 2011. Platini also voted for Qatar's successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup.

Platini has been seen as a strong candidate for the 2015 FIFA election, when Blatter would be 79.

While Blatter is unpopular with some European football powers, including England, other UEFA members could regard Bin Hammam as an unwanted barrier to Platini's FIFA ambitions.

In January, Platini said he would not declare himself a FIFA candidate while promising UEFA members he would serve them for four more years.