The Asian Football Confederation plans to elect a president next April to end the uncertain in football's Asian body following the suspension of Mohamed bin Hammam on corruption charges in May 2011. In a statement released after its executive committee meeting in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, the AFC, said the election would be subject to the advice of its Legal Committee.
China's Zhang Jilong, who has held the role of acting president of the organisation since May last year, told Exco members, "under my caretaker leadership, I promised a new vision for AFC. I committed myself to a new era of transparency and I am confident that with your support I will be able to deliver this objective."
The 60-year-old, considered a likely candidate at the election, said his decision to stand "partly depends on whether I have the confidence and capability to handle all the AFC affairs." However he is expected to face competition from West Asia, notably Bahraini FA president, Sheikh Salman and UAE FA president Yousuf Al Serkel.
Bin Hammam has repeatedly denied all corruption charges against him and charged that there were forces aligned against him are detrimental to the AFC. "I believe [my suspension] causes huge damage to the AFC," he told Associated Press by email.
"The AFC is no longer its own master. It is now controlled partly by FIFA and partly by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA). Unfortunately, there are those who are currently in power and decision-making positions in AFC who are no more than puppets and blind followers of either FIFA or the OCA. These people believe that FIFA and the OCA are going to either put them in a more powerful position or consolidate their current position."
Bin Hammam believes however that he has the support of the majority.
"I will say that in the whole of Asia, I can identify only around five to six member associations and officials who are actively working against me. Particularly I will not accuse the Chinese FA of any attempts to damage my reputation or that they are part of group of people who are responsible for what I am going through today. I do not believe that other federations, other than Japan in the East, are playing any role in this scheme to remove me. The majority of the member associations are either with me or have sympathy for me."
Bin Hammon also fears a confrontation between West and East Asia.
"Each time during the elections, I see this east-west tension rearing its ugly head. Both sides are guilty of acting in a foul manner, encouraging this East-West tension so that they themselves gain during the election. This is very unfortunate as when this happens, we as members of the football family are allowing outsiders to take advantage of us. Throughout my career at the AFC, I have ignored the political side and focused completely 100% on the development of the game and fair play."
However, the Exco decision to proceed to an election was reportedly unanimous.