KEIR RADNEDGE in PORT LOUIS: China’s Zhang Jilong is back onside in world football’s governing body despite not having fought to stay on as president of the Asian confederation.
Zhang, senior vice-president, was elevated to the top job two years after controversial Qatari Mohamed Bin Hammam was suspended first over bribery allegations and then a misuse of funds issue.
Initially he indicated he would not want the role long-term then appeared to change his mind. Early this year, however, he said he would not seek the presidency in the election at the start of last month in Kuala Lumpur.
That meant he had to relinquish the role of the FIFA executive committee to which he had also succeeded on Bin Hammam’s suspension.
An AFC election congress in Kuala Lumpur duly elected Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa as new president.
That was not the end of the story, however.
Days earlier Sri Lanka’s Vernon Manilal Fernando had been suspended by FIFA pending the outcome of an ethics investigation. This created an Asian vacancy on the world federation’s executive committee.
Zhang was obvious choice both as senior vice-president of the AFC and answering Sheikh Salman’s diplomatic need to replace Fernando from East Asia.
Zhang duly re-took his place at the FIFA executive committee on Tuesday although his selection was confirmed formally only at an AFC conference here in Mauritius the following day.