Chung faces battle for FIFA seat

[ASIA] An election with potential repercussions for FIFA's future will take place Thursday in Doha, Qatar, when the Asian Football Confederation holds its congress. Korean Chung Mong Joon, a FIFA vice president since 1994, will attempt to hold off a challenge from Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan and win a fifth term on the executive committee. If successful, Chung, the controlling shareholder in industrial giant Hyundai, a major FIFA sponsor, may launch a campaign to unseat Sepp Blatter as FIFA president later in the year.

The 35-year-old Prince Ali is viewed as the hand-picked candidate of both Blatter and AFC president Mohamed bin Hammam to unseat Chung.

Blatter and Chung have often not seen eye to eye, going back to the financial problems of 2001 and 2002 when Chung was an outspoken Blatter critic and led the support for opposition candidate Issa Hayatou, who eventually lost to Blatter in the 2002 FIFA presidential race.

There is a long history of feuding between bin Hammam, a longtime supporter of Blatter, and Chung. Only last year Chung said bin Hammam suffered from "mental problems" and acted "like a head of a crime organization" when he supported Bahrain's Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa in the 2009 race for the seat on the FIFA executive committee Bin Hammam has held.

Bin Hammam won 23-21 -- with two ballots deemed spoiled and inadmissible -- in an election marred by accusations of vote-buying.

As the incumbent, Chung would also be favored against Prince Ali, but the Jordanian has several things going for him in his bid to become the youngest member of the FIFA executive committee.

Prince Ali is the head of the West Asian Football Federation and appealing for full Arab support. He has the backing of Blatter, who can offer FIFA's considerable clout. And he has the support of bin Hammam, who is coming off Qatar's historic victory over the USA to land the rights to host the 2022 World Cup.

Last fall -- before the vote on the 2022 World Cup -- Chung ruled out plans to run for FIFA president, but few doubt he would not like to make a run at unseating Blatter. At 59, Chung, who attended MIT and Johns Hopkins, is one of the youngest and most independent-minded members of the executive committee. To demonstrate his own good will within the West Asian soccer community last fall, he donated $400,000 for flood relief in Pakistan.

If Chung loses to Prince Ali, his FIFA career will be over, but it won't be the end of his presidential ambitions.

Chung, a key figure in the Grand National Party, has held aspirations to become president of South Korea. The next elections will be held in 2012.

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