ZURICH, Switzerland, July 21 – Mohamed Bin Hammam arrives in Zurich on Thursday desperate to save his career, as FIFA bid to draw a line beneath a corruption scandal that has blackened the image of the world’s biggest sport.
The 62-year-old stands accused of attempting to bribe Caribbean football officials to vote for him in the FIFA presidential election with cash gifts of $40,000 each, during a Caribbean Football Union (CFU) summit in May.
A leaked FIFA ethics committee report seen by Britain’s Press Association claimed there was “overwhelming” evidence against the Qatari, amid stories of brown envelopes stuffed with cash and clandestine meetings in hotel boardrooms.
With former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner, charged alongside Bin Hammam, having stood down from all football activities, Bin Hammam has been left to face the music alone.
CFU officials Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester will also go before the ethics committee at FIFA headquarters on Friday, but all the attention will focus on the outcome of Bin Hammam’s hearing, to be announced on Saturday.
Prompted by reports that he will be banned from football for life, the former Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president — suspended since May 29 — came out fighting on the eve of his arrival in Switzerland.
“With just a few days to go before my hearing, there can be no doubt that there has been a campaign waged within certain quarters to ensure that I am seen to be guilty and eliminated from football in the court of public opinion, even before my hearing has started,” he wrote on his blog on Wednesday.
“Despite these clear attempts to besmirch my name in the public domain, I will not allow my own suspicions to dash my hopes or to make me think, as some would wish, that I will have to travel a long and hard road to clear my name of the stain of this politically motivated affair.
“My years serving football and FIFA lead me to think, and presume, that at the very least the Ethics Committee will give me the fair hearing that I deserve, uninfluenced by political agendas or other interests.
“Notwithstanding the biasness and the absence of fair proceedings since the start of this trial, over the past seven weeks my legal team and I have been working very hard to provide convincing grounds that fair play was highly respected and observed throughout my election campaign… in accordance with FIFA’s own practices as laid down by its rules and regulations.”
Angered by leaks to the media from FIFA officials, Bin Hammam sees himself as a scapegoat for the corruption rumours that have swirled around the organisation ever since Qatar were sensationally awarded the right to host the 2022 World Cup in December last year.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter pledged to rid the organisation of corruption after Bin Hammam’s last-minute withdrawal from the presidential contest saw him elected unopposed for a fourth consecutive term in June.
The 75-year-old has swatted aside concerns over the voting process that saw Qatar awarded the World Cup and will see the Bin Hammam affair as a golden opportunity to prove he is serious about cleaning up FIFA’s image.
Bin Hammam now finds himself squarely in FIFA’s firing line, but even if he does become the first high-profile victim of his former ally Blatter’s anti-corruption purge, he is unlikely to go quietly.