FIFA rivals Blatter, bin Hammam seek Europe votes
Monday, March 21, 2011; 11:24 AM
PARIS -- FIFA President Sepp Blatter and challenger Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar are seeking support from European soccer leaders with the election for the sport's top job about two months away.
Blatter and bin Hammam, president of the Asian Football Confederation, have accepted long-standing invitations to attend the UEFA Congress.
Bin Hammam is trying to end Blatter's 13-year hold on the FIFA presidency. Members of European soccer's ruling body make up more than one quarter of the maximum 208 FIFA voters that Blatter and bin Hammam will attempt to woo before the June 1 election in Zurich.
The winner needs a two-thirds majority of votes cast on the first ballot or a majority on 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.
The 53-nation UEFA Congress opens Tuesday and Michel Platini is running unopposed for a second four-term term as UEFA president.
Platini has asked Blatter and bin Hammam to be guests Monday at UEFA's dinner, which will be held on a boat on the Seine. Blatter addresses UEFA members Tuesday at the Grand Palais.
Platini, a former French star, was mentored in soccer politics by Blatter after being chosen to organize the 1998 World Cup in France.
Bin Hammam, however, has recently revealed he offered to support Platini if he decided to take on Blatter in 2011. Platini voted for Qatar's successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup. Platini is seen as a strong candidate for the 2015 FIFA election, when Blatter would be 79.
While Blatter is unpopular with some European soccer powers, including England, other UEFA members could regard bin Hammam as an obstacle 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.