What are the most important things you want to do if youíre elected as FIFA president on Friday?
First of all I think is to separate the business side from the football side. In FIFA itís urgent that football and business is separated. FIFA has two sides, one financial and one sporting. My idea is to divide the two powers. With that we can improve, weíll make the sponsors happy. Thatís why we need to choose the best people in business. Hire the perfect people for the job and put them in the right areas. We need to identify football development programmes based on the needs existing in each country, about all those that need the most help. And all of it has to be done in a transparent manner. We need to focus on that.
Have you thought about specific people to do these two jobs?
Not yet, but they have to be the best. FIFA should copy the model of organisations that work perfectly. The Premier is a great example of how things should be done, separating the two powers, football and business. Iíd like someone like the President of the Premier, Richard Scudamore, for the business side, and Sir Alex Ferguson for the football side. They could be FIFA directors and bring their know-how to help us improve. Looking for help and the wisdom of the best is vital for an organisation like ours; itís what we need to do. In Europe, not just the Premier League has a good structure, the Bundesliga too and the Spanish Liga. People are happy with how the tournaments are run, where football is the main thing, and at the same time, they are successful business models.
What plans do you have for Womenís Football? Will you bring women into the executive bodies of FIFA?
Womenís Football has grown a lot in recent years and it needs to be looked after. FIFA should support Womenís Football to the maximum. It needs a global development plan, with more powers and an increase in its development budget. And logically, this growth should be reflected in the organisationís governing bodies. But, in addition to women, we need to implement similar development plans with grassroots football, with children, because they are the future of our sport. We need to support and encourage grass roots football the world over, particularly in less favoured countries.
Do you agree with increasing the World Cup to 40 countries?
The idea is there and itís been put to the FIFA Executive Committee, but we need to make sure that, if we agree on that, that there is the right justification that it is a positive move. We have to consult with the stakeholders around the world, because it affects them as well. As an Asian president, yes, Iím in favour. But itís not just about a number. Itís about the rest of the issues that are related in increasing the number. The professional leagues have a say, the footballers, the union have a say, the clubs as well.
If youíre elected as president will you renounce your right to a salary?
I said that I donít want to be an executive president. And the definition of an executive president and a non-executive president is that a non-executive president is not paid. If somehow they want an executive president to be there, this is a different situation. But I believe in having the right people in and delegating to them, but on the other hand we have to emphasise as well that the president has to be hands-on to know exactly what happens. It doesnít mean if heís non-executive that heís away. There are some people who are using this as a negative instead of as a positive thing against me. And as for the mandate, the recommendation from the Reform Committee is to have three mandates for the president and the Executive Committee. We in Asia are supporting it. So I think 12 years is a good period for a president, if heís elected for 12 years, to show his abilities. In my opinion the president of FIFA should dedicate his efforts to developing football as a source of FIFAís funds. To run FIFA as a professional organisation and not a political one.
In your opinion is it time for a non-European president?
I think itís the time to choose the right person. Whatever his background is, whatever his position is as well. We have to look at all these qualities in the candidate [and look at] what his track record is, and if we feel comfortable that he has the ability to take this organisation forward, then it doesnít matter what his background is, as long as we feel that he is the right person that we can trust to take this organisation forward. I think things will be very equal up to the vote, but I believe in my chances.
Are you aware of the problems of Ńngel Villar in Spain? The Spanish government have opened a case against him that could see him suspended. Do you know about it?
I cannot say anything because itís an internal problem, a local problem. I have no idea about it.
But do you have a good relationship with Villar? You know him, youíre both FIFA vice-presidentsÖ
I try to have good relations with everyone, and with Villar too. But as weíre talking about Spain, pass on my regards to ButragueŮo. And to Del Bosque too, the man behind the recent great successes of football in your country. FIFA needs people like him. We talked of Ferguson before, and now weíre mentioning another of the characters of whom football should be proud: Del Bosque.
We were talking about VillarÖ
I know him, of course. Weíre both FIFA vice-presidents.
I wonít go on anymore about Villar. What feeling do you have about the elections on Friday in Zurich?
I respect all the candidates. But things are looking very good and positive for me and I have a positive feeling for Friday and I hope that things will be good. I think I can help FIFA. Thatís why Iím standing.
What do you think is vitally important for FIFA to get out of its current situation?
I think we have to bring stability back, because without stability there is no development, there is no future, and I think this is what people are looking for. We proved that in Asia, because we had issues in the past, but we have proved that Asia is solid and is united and has one voice, and there is a good understanding and a good atmosphere. Thatís what we want to do for FIFA.
What do you think about the World Cups in Russia and Qatar?
I think that Russia deserves to host the World Cup in 2018 and Qatar as well [in 2022]. 2018 is ongoing now, so there is no need even to talk about the World Cup in Russia and their Local Organising Committee are doing a great job under their chairman Vitaly Mutko, and his CEO is doing a great job so weíre all looking forward to a great and successful World Cup in Russia. And in Qatar, the 2022 Local Organising Committee have already started on the infrastructure and theyíre moving ahead, and as an Asian and the Asian Football Confederation president Iím sure that we will have a terrific and successful World Cup in Qatar, because I know how much has been invested for this event. And believe me, I know that itís going to be some of the most successful World Cups ever.
Are you a Real Madrid or Barcelona fan? Isnít it true that everyone in the world is a fan of their local side and either Real Madrid or Barcelona?
I support Manchester United. Weíre not having our best time, but weíll be back soon, with players as good as Mata, who I like a lot. But we all follow the Spanish league and we always have people thatís supporting either team and that rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona is not only in Spain, itís in the rest of the world. Itís a worldwide rivalry. Itís a great thing for football.
Are you in favour of the use of technology in football?
I think the game as it is and the laws of the game should be as they are, and if there are changes it has to be studied very carefully through the International Football Association Board, the organisation which implements the rules of the game. And I support technologyís input, because I think goal-line technology made a big difference. Yes, maybe now itís not easy to implement it in every league or tournament, but I think it made a big difference and the accuracy of the technology in that sense made it very clear that teams have not suffered wrong decisions. But we have to look at other ways as well, consulting through the stakeholders and the people and the professional leagues on how we improve this game and introduce new laws. Iím not restricted to anything; we have to have an open mind. But we have to be practical and simple to keep the game as it is, as beautiful as it is.
Did you play football?
I played as a youngster, as a lover of the game. I was an attacking midfielder.
Like Xavi HernŠndezÖ?
Well, more or less, but with the only thing in common is the position. Of course I never played like he does. Obviously. I think that in my footballing time, the 70s and 80s, football was very different to how it is now.
Which footballers stand out? At your age, maybe Maradona?
Maradona was a great player, the best of my generation. But you canít just pick one. [Alfredo] Di Stťfano, Pelť and of course [Ferenc] PuskasÖ Great names. And now you see [Leo] Messi and [Cristiano] Ronaldo, who have always entertained us in football. Theyíre in a league of their own; they bring so much joy into the game.
Manchester United against Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League final. That was a crazy three minutes.
How do you aim to put an end to corruption in FIFA?
I think we have to safeguard the game. We have to make a lot of regulations and Iím sure that through the Reform Committeeís recommendations that are going to be implemented there are very clear guidelines. But we have to work closer to other organisations, government and non-government organisations, to make sure that the game is clean. Itís not easy, because you have over a billion people who are related to football and I donít think itís just FIFA that can handle all that responsibility. You have to use the authority of the national associations, the confederations, other organisations as well, to be part of this process.
Youíve been accused in relation to the repression of athletes in Bahrain in 2011. What do you have to say about that matter?
Just a few days ago we signed a pledge in that regard, for the protection of Human Rights. Itís a priority for me and I think it should be too for the future FIFA president. And if we talk about human rights and the rights of players, yes of course, we will always be a part of that to support the players and to support the athletes all around the world. As to the accusations, I can only say that they were made without proof and only for political reasons.
Have you thought about creating an anti-corruption observatory at FIFA?
I need to examine the idea of creating a global anti-corruption agency, a joint agency, run by sporting organisations with justice departments around the world. But aside from that kind of initiative, we need to focus on the game, on football, and not politics. We need to focus on football as soon as possible to get back to normality. And I hope we can bring the unity and understanding to FIFA that we now have in Asia. It has to be a team effort, it needs to be done professionally and positively, but the main thing are the intentions, if you have good intentions and the intention to do the right thing, Iím sure everything will go well.
Does FIFA need a complete revolution?
Not a complete revolution. It needs to regenerate, reposition itself and reconsider its objectives. These are the reasons for which Iím standing and the true objective of a president.