- Language Tips
China's acting president of Asia's top soccer body won't run in election
China's soccer governing body and its Olympic-oriented sports system have again come under fire because of a media report stating Chinese Zhang Jilong has not been nominated to take part in the race for the presidency of the Asian Football Confederation.
"The act of sacrificing soccer and Zhang, who took years to reach the seat of AFC acting president and the FIFA executive committee, in exchange for acting in the interests of the OCA (Olympic Council of Asia) reflects that the Olympic Games and winning gold medals are still the priorities of China's sports authority," Chinese commentator Yan Qiang wrote on his Sina weibo.
"Sports have no relationship to the requirements of the mass public and market in China, they are just a tool. And soccer is only a dispensable toy," he said.
According to Chinese paper Titan Sports, the AFC's acting president, Zhang, confirmed he will not contest elections for either the AFC presidency, vacated by Mohamed bin Hammam after a bribery scandal, or the available FIFA executive committee seat.
Though Zhang was apparently optimistic about the coming election, the Chinese Football Association didn't nominate him to run, which means the Asian soccer caretaker is not qualified to take part in the elections.
The paper said CFA Vice-President Lin Xiaohua, who takes care of foreign affairs, stated on Thursday the association would not nominate any candidates for the East Asian Football Federation's May meeting in Seoul.
Lin was not available for comment on Friday.
In an online poll on Tencent.com, almost half of the participants suggested Zhang's withdrawal was a huge blow to Chinese soccer, while 45 percent said they were shocked by the message it was sending out about the relevance of the game in China.
A large number of fans also slammed the CFA as well as the State General Administration of Sport, believing Zhang was the victim of Chinese sports politics.
"It was not a decision I could make to take part in the election ... it was a decision by the organization. I am incapable of doing anything," Titan Sports quoted the 61-year-old Zhang as saying.
According to the paper, the CFA's move could have been instructed by the country's sport governing body, which is looking for support from the OCA to preserve the Olympic status of its dominant sports, such as badminton and table tennis.
Liu Feng, a sports reporter from Chinese website sina.com wrote on his micro blog that the CFA had handed in a proposal recommending Zhang's nomination for the AFC presidency to SGAS last month, but it was rejected by the authority.
The website also predicted the CFA would now most likely vote for Bahrain Football Association President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa. He is openly supported by OCA President Sheikh Fahad Al-Sabah.
"The reality is China has to follow the leadership of Fahad in many Olympic and Asian Games matters," Liu wrote.
Zhang, who will remain in his role as senior AFC vice-president, was elevated to caretaker leader in 2011 when bin Hammam was accused of vote-buying during FIFA presidential polls and subsequently banned from soccer. Speaking to AFP soon after his appointment, Zhang said his priority was to "maintan stability, enhance unity, promote development, hand-in-hand together to manage the difficulties".
(China Daily 03/02/2013 page16)