The Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) acting president Zhang Jilong has surprisingly elected not to run for the position on a full-time basis, according to the AFP news agency.
AFP, citing a source close to Zhang, said the Chinese official will not contest May’s election for both the AFC presidency and the available seat on FIFA’s Executive Committee. Zhang has held the AFC presidency on an interim basis since May 2011 as the organisation sought to cope with the downfall of previous incumbent Mohamed bin Hammam. Zhang has previously stated his ambition to land the position in a full-time capacity, but the source said: “He’s not running. He has decided after long and careful thought. He doesn’t want the AFC to be split for the next two years.”
The source denied previous election favourite Zhang lacked the support to win the job full-time, but instead simply felt unable to unite Asian football’s governing body over a shortened two-year term. The AFC announced in January that it will elect a new president on May 2, with the appointment set to end a period of limbo the organisation has endured since the fall from grace of Bin Hammam. The terms for the AFC positions will be from 2013 until 2015, as opposed to the normal four years, while the position on the FIFA Executive Committee will have a four-year tenure until 2017. The final list of candidates will be published on April 2.
Bahrain Football Association president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa this week joined the race for the presidency but Thailand’s Worawi Makudi, a Bin Hammam ally and FIFA Executive Committee member, is now said to be the favourite. AFP said two more candidates may also be announced when the initial contenders are unveiled on Monday. The source added: “The member associations are split not in half, but in several parts. It’s his (Zhang’s) wish that the football family can get together, back to unity and solidarity. We hope that the less (candidates) the better, otherwise it will be certain chaos for the AFC.”