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Outgoing AFC caretaker chief calls for unity call

Outgoing AFC caretaker chief calls for unity callKuala Lumpur, March 14: Outgoing acting president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Zhang Jilong has urged the governing body to stay united to "restore glory" for the confederation.

Chairing the AFC executive committee meeting here Wednesday for the last time as its interim boss, Zhang said he was proud of the achievements that AFC attained under his watch, reports Xinhua.

Zhang took over after Mohamed bin Hammam was suspended for life by FIFA over a bribery scandal.

Just weeks before a crucial election to elect the new leadership, Zhang said: "AFC has really suffered in the recent past and it is our duty to restore it back to its health and glory. We are the guardians of Asian football and we should be seen as shining examples of honesty, integrity, and transparency."

Zhang said he was happy to take AFC through a troubled period.

"I am really honored that I was entrusted with the caretaker job while the AFC was in its most difficult period. I am happy that I did my part to maintain the stability of AFC," he said.

"I can rightly look back with pride at all our achievements and our strong determination to move forward and turn over a new page," added Zhang.

Zhang confirmed earlier this month that he will not run for leadership election during the AFC Extraordinary Congress in May, stressed that the decision was made "totally out of his own will and with careful thinking."

He will stay on as senior vice president of AFC.

Explaining his decision to step aside, Zhang said that he hoped his withdrawal from the election would "reduce the tension and bring more unity to Asian football".

"My job is done. It is time for the AFC to elect a new leadership," he said.

Shaikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa from Bahrain is considered leading the race for AFC presidency. He is also running for the job of FIFA Executive Committee member. His rivals include Worawi Makudi of Thailand, Hafez Ibrahim Al Medlej of Saudi Arabia and Yousuf Al Serkal, also from Saudi Arabia. (IANS)