2011 Most Influential - #1 FIFA President, #2 Asian Football Chief

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Blatter is hoping to be re-elected as FIFA president on June 1 (Getty)
(WFI) FIFA president Sepp Blatter takes 1st position in World Football INSIDER's '10 to Watch in 2011' series. AFC leader Mohamed Bin Hammam is in 2nd spot in the ranking of those people expected to have the biggest influence in the global football business this coming year.

1. FIFA president Sepp Blatter

Something dramatic will have to happen at the AFC Congress or in the coming weeks if Blatter is to be ousted in 2011.

If Korea's Chung Mong-joon defeats Jordan's Prince Ali in Doha this week to keep the FIFA vice presidency and then declares he will stand against Blatter, there'll be plenty to keep FIFA observers interested over the next few months. But it seems unlikely, and even if Chung did mount a challenge he could end up losing heavily in the June 1 elections at the FIFA Congress in Zurich.

Blatter is wary of a late challenge and is already busy shoring up his support base. The awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar strengthened his case for a fourth term in charge of FIFA. It will also provide encouragement for smaller nations and FAs looking for some development cash as Blatter tours the six confederation congresses in the next five months, talking up his plans for a final four years in the job. The AFC Congress in Doha on Thursday is the first stop on his global tour.

Blatter's quest to take the game to uncharted territories was summed up in his end-of-year message when he promised that FIFA "will continue to pursue our goal of constantly developing football all over the world". This should mean more investment in football projects worldwide under the GOAL project; FIFA revenues from the South African World Cup will help.

The Swiss, 74, will also be busy dealing with football leaders and government ministers in Brazil, Russia and Qatar in the coming months. All three countries face sizeable challenges as they prepare for the next three World Cups - for 2014, its the airports and infrastructure; for 2018 the transport links; and for the desert state, it's the heat issue.

Blatter will likely face more questions from the media on the awarding of the FIFA tournament to Qatar at the AFC Congress later this week. While there, he will also hold talks with Qatar 2022 officials about the possibility of switching the competition from summer to winter. While a change would certainly ease concerns over the health risks to players of Qatar's fierce summer heat, it also throws up complications for the
Bin Hammam has plenty to do in his next four years as AFC boss(Getty)
international footballing calendar.

With the debate over goal-line technology in football resurfacing at the International Football Association Board meeting in March, Blatter will also be sure to have his say on the controversial issue.

Earlier this week, Blatter promised to establish an independent anti-corruption committee to police FIFA following the World Cup corruption scandal that brought down two FIFA Ex-co members and allegations of collusion between Qatar and Spain-Portugal bids. It will be interesting to see how this would work alongside FIFA's ethics committee.

The highlight of the FIFA calendar is the Women's World Cup in Germany this summer. It will demonstrate to Blatter and his FIFA colleagues just how much the women's game has developed, and how much there is still to do.

2. Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed Bin Hammam
Mohamed Bin Hammam played a massive role in securing 2022 hosting rights for his native Qatar. Asian football and the AFC now finds itself in under a much bigger spotlight. The AFC is entering a new era and Bin Hammam shoulders huge responsibility to make rapid progress.

The 61-year-old is now charged with spearheading initiatives to accelerate football's growth in the Middle East.

He will also be looking to raise the profile of Asian football - the fastest growth market in world football - by improving the governance of the AFC's 46 member associations and their clubs and raising the standard of football throughout Asia.

Progressing the Vision Asia project, now adopted by many member FAs, and growth of the AFC Champions League are among Bin Hammam's priorities. So too is cracking down on football corruption in China, a rapidly developing AFC market ripe with revenue potential.

Bin Hammam will set out his goals on Thursday when he is re-elected for a third term as AFC chief.

The Qatari is also desperate to silence the critics who have carped about Qatar's lack of football event knowhow by staging a spectacular Asian Cup this month.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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