FIFA presidential hopeful Chung Mong-Joon, speaking in SeoulFIFA presidential hopeful Chung Mong-Joon, speaking in Seoul (AFP Photo/Ed Jones)
Seoul (AFP) - FIFA presidential hopeful Chung Mong-Joon said Tuesday the ethics committee of football's governing body wants him banned for 19 years and slammed the move as a bid to "smear" his election campaign.
The South Korean tycoon said that FIFA president Sepp Blatter, himself the target of a Swiss criminal investigation, was behind the attacks on him.
"The fact that I am the target of Mr. Blatter's smear campaign is clearly the most powerful endorsement of my candidacy," he told reporters.
Chung said FIFA's independent ethics committee had asked for a 15 year suspension from all football activities for alleged vote-trading and other actions during bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup.
South Korea was one of the candidates for the 2022 World Cup which went to Qatar.
Chung added that he faced an additional four year ban for allegedly defaming the ethics committee.
"People say FIFA's Ethics Committee is Mr. Blatter's 'hitman'. They never hit him but only those who challenge Mr. Blatter," Chung told reporters.
FIFA and its ethics commission declined to comment on the South Korean's claims.
Chung, a leading candidate for the FIFA election in February, along with UEFA president Michel Platini and Prince Ali bin al Hussein of Jordan, has become a virulent critic of Blatter.
He said he was under scrutiny for letters he sent in 2010 to FIFA executive members about the creation of a Global Football Fund (GFF).
South Korea proposed the fund to support football projects, valued at $777 million, as it was bidding to host the World Cup.
"No money or personal favours were exchanged in relation to GFF," Chung said, adding FIFA had closed the case in 2010 with no charges made against him.
That case has now been revived.
"The fundamental reason why I am being targeted is that I aimed straight at the existing power structure of FIFA," he said.
Such a "retroactive sanction" sought by the committee is based only on testimonies from Blatter and his former right-hand man, secretary general Jerome Valcke.
"To attack my credibility, the Ethics Committee relies on the testimonies of two major witnesses, Mr. Blatter and Mr. Valcke," Chung said.
Valcke was suspended last month over alleged links to a black market ticket scheme surrounding the 2014 World Cup.
Chung refused to present himself to the hearing unless Blatter and Valcke came as witnesses.
The South Korean, who was a FIFA vice president until 2011, said he could not get a fair hearing while the ethics committee is his "judge" but also accuses him of defamation.
The crisis in world football rocketed in May when US authorities charged 14 FIFA officials and sports marketing executives over bribery worth more than $150 million.
Seven were detained at a Zurich hotel just ahead of a FIFA congress.
"FIFA is much sicker than it looks," Chung said, urging confederations and national associations to reclaim their independence and change "the passive way of dealing with FIFA before we can bring any meaningful reforms".
Any FIFA action against Chung would further complicate the presidency election process which took on a new slant on Tuesday with German football great Franz Beckenbauer flinging his support behind South African politician Tokyo Sexwale.
Speaking at a sports conference in Kitzbuehel, Austria, "the Kaiser" said the German Football Association (DFB) know "about the quality of the South Africans and the quality of Tokyo Sexwale".
"I certainly believe that the German Football Association would support his candidacy," added Beckenbauer, a former FIFA executive committee member, who is still influential.
The 62-year-old Sexwale has yet to announce whether he will oppose Blatter, 79, at next February's presidency re-election and has until October 26 to decide.
The former anti-apartheid activist, who was an inmate alongside former South African president Nelson Mandela on Robben Island, is a guest at the Camp Beckenbauer event and is considering opposing Blatter.
"We are all affected by what happens at the FIFA," said Sexwale, who is working as an advisor to FIFA.