SINGAPORE: Asia’s caretaker football chief and presumed next president has pulled out of upcoming leadership elections, a source said on Thursday, in a shock move which threatens further turmoil at the troubled body.
China’s Zhang Jilong will not contest elections in early May for either the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) presidency, vacated by Mohamed Hammam after bribery claims, or the available FIFA executive committee seat.
“He’s not running. He has decided after long and careful thought,” said the source close to Jilong.
“He doesn’t want the AFC to be split for the next two years.”
The source, who did not want to be identified, said Jilong made the decision “a couple of days” ago, before Thursday’s meeting in Seoul of the East Asian Football Federation’s executive committee. It has not been formally announced. The next president of the 46-member confederation, the world’s biggest, will be decided at an AFC Congress in Kuala Lumpur in May. The winner will complete Hammam’s current term, which runs until 2015.
Thai football chief Worawi Makudi, a Hammam ally, has already thrown his hat into the ring, along with Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman Ibrahim al-Khalifa. Two more hopefuls may also be announced when the candidates are unveiled on Monday.
Jilong’s withdrawal will be seen as likely to signal a battle for control of the AFC between competing factions from across the vast grouping, which stretches from the Middle East to Australia.
“The election itself could be not only a split of the votes, but also a split of the hearts,” the source warned. — AFP
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