Acting chief Zhang: I am in charge in Asia

BEIJING - Acting Asian Football Confederation (AFC) chief Zhang Jilong thinks the continent needs a football 'revolution' to rid the game of its ills.

Zhang took temporary charge of the AFC after president Mohamed Bin Hammam was suspended by FIFA from all football activity on Sunday in the worst corruption scandal ever to hit the sport's international governing body.

Asian football, particularly in Zhang's native China, has been beset by scandals over the last decade even as the region has developed a stronger international profile.

Zhang, who assumed control in his capacity as AFC's senior vice-president, did not specify the problems but said the situation was not good.

"I think the Asian football environment is not that healthy," the 59-year-old said in an interview in English on China's state TV.

"We need, let's say, a revolution, we need reform to make more clear and more fair play environment in Asian football areas."

Zhang earlier denied media reports that he had said that Qatari Bin Hammam remained in charge at the AFC.

"Media reports published by some media organisations are inaccurate and do not reflect my position," he said in a statement.

"I am following the development closely and given the current circumstances, I will serve as acting president of the AFC in the best of my abilities and I sincerely hope that this issue will be resolved in the best interest of Asian football."

Bin Hammam, 62, had been due to stand against Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency on Wednesday but withdrew his candidacy before facing an ethics committee hearing into the bribery allegations.


Bin Hammam and Jack Warner, his counterpart in the North, Central American and Caribbean governing body CONCACAF, were accused of arranging to pay delegates of the Caribbean Football Union $40,000 in cash to vote for the Qatari.

Both were suspended over the allegations but FIFA's ethics committee cleared Blatter. The case against Trinidadian Warner and Bin Hammam, who have denied any wrongdoing, will be heard in July.

"I'm very sorry to see the current crisis in FIFA, as well as in the AFC, as it spoils the game of football," Zhang told CCTV. "We have to clear all this and to give more beauty and clear pictures for football development both in FIFA and AFC."

Zhang, who was the chief local organiser for the football tournament at the Beijing Olympics, ran for a seat on FIFA's Executive Committee earlier this year but was beaten in a vote at the AFC's congress.

As well as reform off the pitch, Zhang said the continent's footballers would have to improve on the pitch to give Asia a bigger voice in world football.

"The fundamental skills in Asia is not as strong as in Europe or South America so the basis is poor in Asia," he added.

"So we need to unite together and work harder to get more attention from the rest of the world to the AFC."