Zhang calls for revolution
Acting Asian football boss Zhang Jilong called for "revolution" Wednesday and vowed to battle corruption after stepping in for suspended leader Mohamed bin Hammam, who is fighting bribery claims.
Zhang said regional football needed reforms after a welter of graft scandals engulfed world body FIFA, including vote-buying allegations against bin Hammam, the embattled Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president.
"The Asian football environment is not that healthy," Zhang told Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. "We need, let's say, revolution. We need reform," he said, to make Asian soccer more transparent and with greater "fair play."
The AFC senior vice-president also promised to bring corrupt officials to book and said allegations like those against bin Hammam -- who is accused of trying to bribe his way to the FIFA presidency -- damaged the sport.
"Scandals such as bin Hammam's bribery allegations harm the sport's beauty. Anyone who does not show transparency should pay for it," he told Chinese website Sina.com, according to the China Daily newspaper.
The strident comments come just days after Zhang's automatic appointment as Asia's caretaker chief following bin Hammam's suspension from footballing activities by FIFA, pending an investigation.
Bin Hammam, whose withdrawal from the presidential race left long-time FIFA leader Sepp Blatter as the lone candidate, is accused of offering cash gifts in return for votes in Wednesday's poll in Zurich.
Zhang also denied making earlier comments, also reported by Sina.com and the China Daily, that bin Hammam was "still the president" and that FIFA had "no right" to bar him from Asian duties.
The AFC's executive committee has voiced the "deepest concern" over developments involving bin Hammam and said it hopes "the outcome of the investigation will be in the best interests of football in Asia and beyond".
Zhang also promised not to promote Chinese football -- which has also been hit by a major corruption scandal -- at the expense of the wider region, and said he hoped to steady the AFC after a turbulent period.
"My priority at the new post is to ease the negative effect of bin Hammam's corruption allegations on Asian soccer," he said, according to the China Daily.
"We should aim to improve the AFC's operations and make it run more transparently... I hope to solidify the whole Asian soccer community and make the federation operate steadily after the crisis."
In Zurich, bin Hammam lodged a formal protest against his ban on Wednesday, claiming he had been given no time to appeal before the congress. "I was punished before I was found guilty," he complained.
The Qatari faced down a challenge to his FIFA executive committee seat in 2009 and was instrumental in winning his home country's hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup, a victory seen as the launch-pad for his presidential bid.