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 Year of Dragon could be China’s time to lead Asia

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PostSubject: Year of Dragon could be China’s time to lead Asia   Wed Jan 04, 2012 2:40 am

SEOUL, South Korea (AP)—This is the Year of the Dragon in China, one for bold decision-making and strong leadership, and one that may see the country emerge as the political power of Asian football.

The Asian Football Confederation can hold elections for its presidency any time from June onward to replace Mohammed bin Hammam who is appealing his ban from the sport for vote-buying in the FIFA presidential election.

Zhang Yilong has been the acting president since May 2011, and is the favorite to win this year’s vote but faces some strong challenges, particularly from west Asia.
After the turmoil following Bin Hammam’s suspension, the Chinese official has provided steady and uncontroversial leadership. He also has the backing of AFC General Secretary from 1978 to 2007 Peter Velappan.cheap jersey

“Zhang will be a good choice,” Velappan told the Associated Press. “He has gone through the different levels of Asian football. I remember him from the Chinese FA and from there he has been with AFC for around 30 years and he knows football and politics in Asia. He deserves a term as AFC president at least.”

For Velappan, it is not just about Zhang’s credentials as geography also plays a part. For 42 of the 44 years from 1958 to 2002, the president was supplied by host country Malaysia. That changed ten years ago as Bin Hammam, a Qatari, took control. Velappan, also from Malaysia, believes that it is time for East Asia to supply its first leader for over five decades.

“Now it is time for regional rotational,” he said. “The presidency should not last more than two terms and then go around the regions if they have candidates that are good enough. Compared to my day, there are more people who have the potential and the leadership skills to be good candidates in the future.”

Zhang’s first challenge is to unite his region behind him, but he first faces a potential challenge from Japan’s Kozo Tashima, a member of the AFC’s Executive Committee and vice president of Japan’s FA. Tashima is well-liked but his relative lack of profile outside East Asia means that a win is unlikely. He could, however, damage the Chinese challenge.

Whatever happens in his backyard, Zhang’s fiercest challenge will come from the western reaches of the continent.

The fact that Qatar has provided the president for nine years does not mean that the region is content to allow East Asia to have its turn in charge, according to James Dorsey, senior fellow of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog.

“This is about a region with Qatar and to a lesser degree Bahrain and the UAE in the lead that is projecting itself as a global sports hub and a player,” Dorsey told The AP. “In doing so it is competing with East and Southeast Asian nations.”

At the turn of the year there are two leading candidates from the region. Yousuf Al Serkal is a current vice-president of the AFC. The former president of the United Arab Emirates Football Association is close to Bin Hammam and the only potential candidate to talk openly of running for the post.

According to Dorsey, his relationship to the deposed president will not be a negative and he “is viewed as honest and not corrupt and as a result could emerge as an Arab compromise candidate.”

His rival is Sheik Salman Bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, the president of the Bahrain Football Association. The member of the country’s ruling family, Salman is a well-known figure in Asia. In May 2009, he challenged Bin Hammam for his seat on FIFA’s Executive Committee only to lose a bitter election by only two votes.

Salman has been actively campaigning behind the scenes but according to Dorsey, his chances have been damaged over the last few months due to his family’s crackdown on Bahraini protests that started in 2011 especially the imprisonment and alleged torture of a number of athletes and footballers.

“My sense is that there is a growing understanding in West Asia that Salman is controversial because of last year’s events in Bahrain and the ongoing protests,” said Dorsey. “That is not to say that he is not able to garner some Arab support but it would not be unanimous.”2012 pro bowl jerseys

The wrangling between east and west could allow AFC vice president Prince Abdullah Ibni Sultan Amhad Shah to emerge as a compromise candidate from Malaysia.
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