Kuala Lumpur: Asian football chief Mohamed bin Hammam said Friday he would challenge Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency in June, setting the stage for a tough battle over the sport's top job.
Bin Hammam, the president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), said he decided to stand against 75-year-old Blatter, who has been the world governing body president for 13 years, after careful consideration.
"Today after careful study, consideration... armed with my love for football I have decided to contest in the upcoming FIFA presidential elections scheduled in June 2011," he told reporters at AFC headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.
"The time is right to contest the FIFA presidency. I have the will to serve people and I always said competition and change is good for any organisation."
FIFA and its president, who was elected to the position in 1998, came under heavy fire last year over alleged corruption.
Bin Hammam has been the AFC president since 2002 and is now in his third and final term.
When asked about his chances of unseating Blatter, Bin Hammam, buoyed by his stunning success in securing the 2022 World Cup for his native Qatar, said the time had come for a new face in FIFA.
"My chances are 50-50," the 61-year-old said.
"Blatter is an experienced person, he has made significant contribution to football worldwide but I believe there is a time limit for everything. There is now a time for a new face and a new heir," he said.
"I hope Asia will be united behind me and also I hope there will be support from other confederations," he added.
During his 20-minute speech, Bin Hammam proposed to double the financial assistance to the member associations to $500,000 per year.
He also unveiled plans to democratise FIFA and make the governing body - which was hit by the corruption scandal last year during bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups - more transparent.
He pledged to expand FIFA's decision-making process and introduce reforms for a "more fair distribution of revenue and increased transparency", if he won the presidency.
In a departure from the current regime, Bin Hammam said that he will sanction the use of video technology to help clarify tight decisions by referees.
"I will support the goal line technology and the use of two assistants behind the goal posts," he said.
There have been calls for the introduction of cameras following Thierry Henry's controversial handball which led to France's extra-time winner against Ireland in a World Cup qualifying play-off in 2009.
Bin Hammam's announcement came after he repeatedly dropped hints in the past two months that he would stand against Blatter, who said Thursday that he had the energy to carry out what would possibly be his final term as president.
"I think I am full of energy and I have not yet finished my work to develop football and organise competition," Blatter said during a visit to Malaysia.
"I am willing to go on for the next four years. This is my wish and we will see what the congress will say."
Hoping to win a fourth term as FIFA president, Blatter on Thursday completed a whirlwind tour of Asia including East Timor, Myanmar, Laos and Malaysia to gauge support from Bin Hammam's affiliates.
Bin Hammam's decision to run for the top post marks the low point of a long professional relationship between the two men. The Qatari was once a close ally of Blatter's and one of the driving forces behind his campaign to be elected in 1998.
The pair fell out two years ago and Bin Hammam's stunning success in securing the 2022 World Cup for Qatar has stirred him to consider a challenge.