Zhang wants to be permanent AFC chief
Acting chief Zhang Jilong emerged from a hush-hush meeting of high-powered Asian Football Confederation (AFC) delegates in Macau on Tuesday to declare he was keen to stay on permanently in the position left vacant by deposed predecessor Mohamed bin Hammam.
'I am interested in becoming president permanently on the condition that I am recognised by all my friends and brothers on the executive committee, as well as the other 46 members' associations,' China's Zhang said.
'We need to be one family, as brothers, for we are on one boat sailing towards the future. If I become president permanently, I wish to work for the solidarity and development of Asian football.'
Nearly 20 officials, including Bahrain Football Association president Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa and Malaysian counterpart Sultan Ahmad Shah, were at the meeting. Other officials ranged from East Timor and the Maldives to Guam. It is believed this gathering was the anti-Hammam faction inside the AFC.
Zhang downplayed the nature of the meeting, saying there was nothing 'secret' about it, and that it was just a 'gathering' of colleagues. But it is understood the officials made the trip to Macau to endorse a permanent successor to Hammam.
'Although I'm interested in the job permanently, I cannot say if everyone will support me,' Zhang said. 'I also cannot say when elections will take place. We should wait for the final decision of CAS [Court of Arbitration for Sport] on Bin Hammam's appeal.'
Hammam has asked sport's highest court to overturn his life ban imposed by Fifa for election bribery. No date has been set for the hearing. If a verdict is not arrived at by May, the AFC will be legally bound to replace him by electing a new leader.
Fifa expelled Hammam in July after its ethics committee found him guilty of attempting to bribe Caribbean voters during his election challenge to president Sepp Blatter.
The Qatari candidate withdrew his bid after the scandal emerged last May. Whistleblowers from four Caribbean football federations said they were offered US$40,000 in cash-filled envelopes after attending Hammam's campaign pitch in Trinidad.
Hammam has already lost one case at the CAS. The court rejected his attempt to stop the AFC appointing an interim president - Zhang - while he fights the ban. Zhang has also taken Hammam's seat on Fifa's executive committee.