AFC sets May date for presidential election


KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- The Asian Football Confederation will hold elections in May for a new president to replace the scandal-tainted Mohamed bin Hammam.

Acting president Zhang Jilong said Thursday that the AFC would hold an extraordinary congress in Kuala Lumpur on May 2 to elect a president.

Bin Hammam, who became AFC president in 2002 and still hasn't been formally replaced, was found guilty of vote-buying during his failed challenge against FIFA President Sepp Blatter in 2011 and the FIFA ethics committee suspended him from all football activity for life.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned that ban last July but bin Hammam remained under provisional bans by both FIFA and AFC as investigations continued into allegations of financial irregularities during his tenure. The Qatari official's life ban was imposed again by FIFA last month after he resigned from all football positions on Dec. 17. He has denied wrongdoing.

The AFC has now opened nominations for president and for a female vice president, two female members on the AFC executive committee and one position on the FIFA Executive Committee.

Zhang, a front-runner to become AFC president, said nominations would close on March 3, 60 days ahead of the extraordinary congress.

"We, as guardians of AFC and Asian football, must make sure that the continent scales newer heights each year," Zhang said in a statement.

AFC Vice President Yousef Al-Serkal told The Associated Press late last year that the uncertainty over the leadership of the confederation "has been damaging for Asian football."

"It is has been unfortunate that something like that happened to the AFC at a time when we are trying to develop and improve the standard of football and that depends on the image and sponsorships of the AFC," Al-Serkal said.

FIFA said the 63-year-old bin Hammam sent a resignation letter to both FIFA and the AFC in December, and that the second life ban was a result of the final report from its ethics committee showing "repeated violations" of ethics during his term as AFC president and member of the FIFA executive committee.

FIFA has said evidence from whistleblowers pointed to bin Hammam handing out $40,000 bribes in cash to each of 24 Caribbean football nations during his campaign visit to Trinidad. A yearlong audit by the Malaysia-based AFC also revealed "infringements" regarding the "execution of certain contracts" and tampering with the organization's bank accounts by bin Hammam while he was president.