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Wed 23 Mar 2011 12:38 PM

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Blatter will beat Bin Hamman in FIFA race, says Johansson

Former Blatter opponent says FIFA president’s popularity gives him edge  

Blatter will beat Bin Hamman in FIFA race, says Johansson
Sepp Blatter won his third term as FIFA president by acclamation in 2007, after running unopposed

Sepp Blatter will secure a fourth term as FIFA president,
according to the man who was beaten in the incumbent’s first election to the
post 13 years ago.

Lennart Johansson, 81, lost to Blatter in 1998 in a campaign
that featured each man publicly criticizing the other. He says Blatter’s
performance as soccer’s top official will make it hard for this year’s
opponent, Mohamed Bin Hammam, to win in the June 1 vote of the ruling body’s
208 members.

“Blatter has been there for 40 years and he was elected by a
100 percent last time,” Johansson, a former head of UEFA, European soccer’s governing
body, said during in an interview in Paris. “I cannot see what has happened
lately that would lead to him stepping down.”

Blatter won his third term by acclamation in 2007, after
running unopposed. He’s been with FIFA since the 1970s and is a former general
secretary of the organization.

The 75-year-old Blatter is one of sport’s most visible
administrators. He overcame opposition from inside his own organization to take
the World Cup to Africa for the first time last year.

Bin Hammam, 61, who heads soccer in Asia, has tried to raise
his profile in recent years, and successfully lobbied for his homeland, Qatar,
to stage the World Cup in 2022.

Johansson feels voters are likely to go with Blatter because
they know him better.

“Bin Hammam is a good man but he’s not very well known over
the world,” he said. “He hasn’t been with us so long. It’s important for the
delegates to know for whom they are voting.”

The 1998 and 2002 FIFA elections were notable for the rancor
surrounding them. Blatter’s victory nine years ago over Cameroon’s Issa Hyatou
ended with a purge of the organization, which included the exit of former
General Secretary Michel Zen Ruffinen.

Johansson said he wants a fair election, saying that people
who’d said they’d vote for him didn’t follow through with their promises.

“You must check that those who say they’ll support you, that
he really supports,” he said. “I was [let down] all the way. That made me
bitter in the beginning but I’ve forgotten it now.”

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