Hyundai conglomerate scion Chung Mong-joon set for FIFA race
A towering figure in Asian football and smooth operator in diplomatic circles, South Korea's Chung Mong-joon will need to sharpen his political elbows if he is to survive the vicious twists and turns of the upcoming FIFA presidential race. Chung said he would make a formal announcement next month in Europe, which he called "the centre of world football".Updated: Jul 30, 2015 19:51 IST
A towering figure in Asian football and smooth operator in diplomatic circles, South Korea's Chung Mong-joon will need to sharpen his political elbows if he is to survive the vicious twists and turns of the upcoming FIFA presidential race.
The sixth son of Hyundai conglomerate founder Chung Ju-young and the main shareholder in the world's biggest shipbuilder, Hyundai Heavy Industries, the 63-year-old told Reuters on Thursday he was the man to clean up the sport's governing body and give FIFA back its identity.
Chung faces a huge task to beat UEFA chief Michel Platini in the race to replace Sepp Blatter as FIFA president, but he has the deep pockets and international diplomatic skills necessary to sustain the challenge over the next seven months.
A FIFA vice president for 17 years, and fierce critic of Blatter for much of that time, Chung lost his seat on FIFA's powerful executive committee in 2011 when he was beaten by then-Blatter ally Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan.
Chung, who has an estimated net worth of $1.2 billion according to Forbes, will need to have his wits about him to ensure he is not outmanoeuvred again by his rivals.
Chung told Reuters he would make a formal announcement next month in Europe, which he called "the centre of world football".
"I am going to stand as a candidate for the FIFA presidency," he said, acknowledging he had a tough fight ahead of him. "It's not easy, but people don't want to be part of corruption. They want to be part of the solution. We cannot leave FIFA in this kind of disgrace."
Chung said he did not yet have the required backing of five FIFA federations that would allow him to stand, but he was confident of getting the support he needed.
While Platini, 60, appears to be the strong favourite to succeed Blatter, with four of the six FIFA confederations reportedly backing him, Chung said the Frenchman was not the right person for the job.
"He's a good person, I like him very much, but if you ask me if this is a good time for Michel to become president of FIFA, right after Sepp Blatter, I don't think this is good news for FIFA and I don't think it's good for Michel either."
While Chung was outlining his plans to become Asia's first FIFA president, the region's football chief Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim gave a ringing endorsement to Platini, "a unique candidate who would bring stability and a smooth transition to normality for FIFA in this difficult situation."
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has been a staunch supporter of Blatter, and Chung said it was beyond its mandate to back a non-Asian candidate. "Asian people did not elect them to that post to recommend another continent's person for that kind of job," he said.
LAWMAKER, KOREAN CHAMPION
A seven-term lawmaker in South Korea, Chung was the first in his family to gain entry to South Korea's elite Seoul National University. He gained further qualifications from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Johns Hopkins University in the United States.
While his intellect and international diplomacy skills are without question, some wonder whether he is able to sway support to his side on the biggest stage after failed bids for the South Korean presidency in 2002 and Seoul mayor last year.
While domestically Chung has failed so far to achieve his political ambitions, his legacy as a champion of South Korean football is assured. He was instrumental in bringing the 2002 World Cup to South Korea when it won co-hosting rights with Japan.
Under his 17-year watch as head of the Korea Football Association (KFA), South Korea soared up the world rankings, with Chung helping turn an annual budget from $3 million to about $100 million.
He helped establish the Paju Training Center and hired Guus Hiddink ahead of the 2002 World Cup, watching with pride as the Dutchman steered the Koreans to fourth place on an emotional wave of home support.
He stood down as head of the KFA in 2009 but remains a powerful figure at the association now headed by his younger cousin, Chung Mong-gyu.
Chung describes himself as a serious football fan and keen sportsman, winning medals in national equestrian competitions. He broke his right knee playing football and his left shoulder skiing.
The fight for the FIFA presidency may leave him with more scars.
First Published: Jul 30, 2015 19:47 IST