Caretaker boss Zhang Jilong pulls out of race for AFC presidency
Asia's caretaker football chief and presumed next president has pulled out of upcoming leadership elections, a source said yesterday, 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 Mohammed bin 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 Zhang. "He doesn't want the AFC to be split for the next two years."
The source said Zhang made the decision "a couple of days" ago. It has not been formally announced. He denied the former Chinese soccer boss and previous poll favourite lacked the support to win the job full-time. But he said Zhang simply felt unable to unite the Asian body over a shortened two-year term.
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 bin Hammam's current term, which runs until 2015.
Thai football chief Worawi Makudi, a bin Hammam ally, has already thrown his hat into the ring, along with Bahrain's Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa.
"The member associations are split not in half, but in several parts," the source said. "It's his [Zhang's] wish that the football family can get together, back to unity and solidarity."