Acting AFC head Zhang Jilong decides against running as replacement for bin Hammam
Zhang Jilong, the acting head of Asian football, will not run for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) presidency in its forthcoming election.
Sunday marked the deadline for nominations for the May 2 vote, but Zhang, who has held the role since May 2011, has opted not to put his name into the hat.
"I made this decision totally out of my own will and with careful thinking," he told the Chinese government news agency Xinhua.
The AFC, which has 47 member associations, has been without a permanent president since Qatari Mohamed bin Hammam was banned for life by Fifa for corruption and bribery.
Zhang's decision, at this point, leaves four candidates in the running for the top Asian football post, with UAE football chief Yousuf Al Serkal, Bahrain counterpart Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa and Saudi Arabia official Hafez El Medlej all declaring their interest from West Asia.
Thailand's Worawi Makudi has also confirmed his candidacy and has the backing of the 12 votes from the South-east Asian region.
This week, Al Serkal urged his two west Asian rivals for the AFC presidency post to step down and support his bid as he holds the majority of votes in the region.
With there being three candidates from the west of the continent their chances of success will all hindered by each other's standing.
With 13 members in the West Asian Football Federation, Al Serkal wants Sheikh Salman and El Medlej to step down so the votes are not split.
"Now we have three candidates [from West Asia] but I am the favourite," Al Serkal told Reuters in an interview.
"If we reach an agreement between the three of us that we have one candidate for the post, yes, I will have all of the votes of West Asia.
"But if the other two insist on continuing, I will still be the favourite and I will have a minimum of 70 per cent support from the zone."
Worawi appears to have a head start on his rivals for the election with his South-east Asian support and has been campaigning hard for the eight votes in the south Asian region.
Al Serkal agreed that the Thai, an ally of Bin Hammam, had stolen a march on the race.
"I believe Worawi Makudi will be the closest rival," the AFC vice-president said. "In his zone, he's the only contestant and so he'll definitely have the majority.
"We are talking about 12 [votes] and he'll have a minimum of 10. That's a good start. From our zone, if we have just one contestant that will be a good. It will be a good start for two candidates for the post.
"But with my relationship in different zones of Asia, I can still win if it is otherwise."
The winning candidate will lead the AFC until 2015, as opposed to the normal four-year term.
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Updated: March 3, 2013 04:00 AM