BANGKOK // Mohamed Bin Hammam has rejected claims his candidacy for Fifa president could split football's governing body and said yesterday he expected a clean fight with Sepp Blatter.
The Asian Football Confederation chief was responding to comments by Franz Beckenbauer, the German World Cup winner and outgoing Fifa executive committee member, that his bid to unseat Blatter was "dangerous" and put the ruling body's unity at risk.
Bin Hammam, who is credited with reforming the fledgling Asian game and helping to secure the 2022 World Cup for Qatar, announced his candidacy for president on Friday, saying it was time for changes at Fifa after 13 years under the direction of Blatter, 75.
"I am a huge fan of Franz Beckenbauer," the Qatari said. "He is a football legend, one of my favourite people in life. But why should Fifa split if two candidates are running for the presidency?"
He added: "I always respect my competitors. President Blatter is a colleague and friend. I won't create or encourage any environment that will divide the football family."
Bin Hammam, 61, was speaking in Bangkok where a workshop involving executives of the major Asian leagues was being held.
A restructuring of the Fifa executive committee, more transparency, increased funding for national federations and introduction of goal-line technology are among his plans if he wins the presidential vote on June 1 at the Fifa Congress.
Bin Hammam said he had sufficient time to rally federations behind his campaign and his proposals were as much about improving the game for the fans as they were about winning votes.
"It's not about us, it's about football and the fans," he said. "We direct football on their behalf.
"This is our focus. They are important to us. Public opinion about how we are working and conducting our business is very important."