PARIS, France, July 25 – Banned Asian football chief Mohamed bin Hammam likened FIFA president Sepp Blatter to a “dictator” on Monday, and said bribery claims against him were the result of cultural misunderstandings.
The 62-year-old former Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president was banned from the game for life on Saturday following a two-day FIFA ethics committee hearing at the organisation’s Zurich headquarters.
Bin Hammam had been accused of seeking to buy votes in the FIFA presidential election by offering cash gifts of $40,000 each to delegates at a Caribbean Football Union (CFU) get-together in May.
He has pledged to appeal the decision.
The Qatari reacted to his ban on Saturday by publishing a scanned copy of a personal letter sent to him by Blatter in 2008 on his personal blog, demonstrating the extent to which he felt betrayed by the 75-year-old Swiss.
He returned to the theme in an interview carried out in Doha with Britain’s Sky News, broadcast on Monday, in which he compared Blatter to a tyrant.
“When you are in a position to lead, the leader usually doesn’t revenge,” he said.
“This is actually the act of the dictators, and you have witnessed through history the dictators, when they think this or that person is a prominent one to replace him, the first thing they do is execute him.
“And they try to fabricate any allegation against him, to jail him or something like that.
“So I mean usually — I don’t know whether Mr Blatter considers himself a leader or not — but the leader doesn’t revenge.”
Bin Hammam also said that gift-giving was a routine practice in FIFA and that exchanging presents with other members of the organisation should not be regarded as attempted bribery.
“This is a normal, normal, normal practice,” he said. “I’m telling you again, I did not give any cash gifts to anybody but these are normal.”
Pointing to his wrist watch, he added: “This watch is a gift.”
Despite his claims, Bin Hammam insisted “he had nothing to do with” the cash-filled envelopes allegedly distributed to the CFU officials.
Bin Hammam’s suspension by FIFA on May 29 led to his withdrawal from the presidential election, thereby handing Blatter a fourth consecutive term in office.
In a statement to the media published on his blog late on Sunday evening, Bin Hammam reiterated his earlier claim that FIFA had no concrete evidence that he was guilty of bribery.
“I believe FIFA alleged that I used cash to obtain votes,” he wrote. “That is for them to prove and I can tell you categorically that I did not.
“I was astonished to hear that the Ethics Committee was very unsure what the charges were and could not agree between themselves.
“I believe that there was not a single piece of evidence FIFA had offered to show that I gave money to any delegates for votes.”
Bin Hammam also refuted allegations that he had not co-operated with the ethics committee’s investigation and said he had “made my bank account statements available” to them.
Bin Hammam has confirmed that he will appeal in the first instance to FIFA’s appeal commitee, but he holds little faith that the organisation that banned him will find in his favour.
In the event that an appeal to FIFA fails, he has vowed to take his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) — the highest sporting judicial authority in the world — in Lausanne.
“The civil court in Switzerland, CAS, that is where we believe we will get the necessary justice,” he told the BBC on Sunday.
As a last resort, Bin Hammam could pursue legal redress through the Federal Court of Switzerland, but a verdict could take months — if not years — to be handed down.