SEOUL • Chung Mong Joon, one of the most influential figures in Asian football, claimed it is time Fifa is helmed by a non-European as he entered the race to replace Sepp Blatter as president of the sport's world governing body.
A former Fifa vice-president, the South Korean described himself as a candidate untainted by scandal and one who is armed with a global vision to take Fifa into a new era.
"It is time that Fifa had a non-European leadership," said the billionaire scion of Korea's Hyundai group yesterday, adding that he wanted to champion an "open, transparent, moral, ethical" body.
"Fifa became a closed organisation for President Blatter, his associates and his cronies, and I want to change that."
The 63-year-old is among a shortlist of declared and likely candidates that includes Uefa president Michel Platini.
Platini, who confirmed his candidacy on Wednesday, is currently seen as the front-runner.
Since last year, the Frenchman has positioned himself as one of the most outspoken opponents of Blatter's regime. But Chung argued that the former midfielder was fatally tainted by his past associations with the president.
"Platini is good for football, but (think of) whether he can be a good Fifa president? I don't think so. He is a product of the current Fifa system," he said. "There are several questions we can have whether Platini can symbolise a new era for Fifa or whether he is simply a protege of Blatter.
"I want to ask Michel whether he really believes that he can cut off his relationship with Blatter; whether he can reveal all the wrongdoings, corruptions, criminal acts committed by Blatter; whether he can really disclose all those things."
Chung, who headed the Korea Football Association from 1993 to 2009, during which time Korea co-hosted the World Cup with Japan, brought up his own past record of clashing with Blatter.
In 2002, he was one of a number of executive committee members who actively campaigned against Blatter's re-election, backing African rival Issa Hayatou and accusing the Swiss of misusing funds.
Chung, worth US$1.2 billion (S$1.65 billion) according to Forbes, is likely to prove a strong candidate, and he certainly has the financial clout to run an effective campaign.
But even as he outlined his plans to become Asia's first Fifa president, the region's football chief Sheikh Salman Ebrahim gave a ringing endorsement to Platini.
He called the 60-year-old "a unique candidate who would bring stability and a smooth transition to normality for Fifa in this difficult situation".
Seven of the eight presidents in Fifa's history have been European, with the exception of Brazilian Joao Havelange.
Blatter was re-elected for a fifth term as president on May 29 but said four days later that he would lay down his mandate as Fifa was engulfed by a bribery scandal.
The 79-year-old will remain as president until the Feb 26 election on Feb 26. Candidates have until Oct 26 to be nominated. REUTERS,