New Delhi, May 30 (IANS): China's Zhang Jilong took over as interim president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Monday after president Mohammad bin Hammam was suspended by the world body FIFA from all football activities on charges of bribery.
FIFA executive committee member Manilal Fernando told IANS that being the senior vice-president, Zhang took over as the interim-president with immediate effect. Earlier this year, Zhang also contested for a seat on FIFA's executive committee but lost at the AFC's congress in Doha.
Bin Hammam was suspended by the FIFA Ethics Committee Sunday over bribery allegations, hours after withdrawing as the presidential candidate for the June 1 election in Zurich.
Besides bin Hammam, FIFA vice-president Jack Warner and two officials from the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) - Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester - were also provisionally suspended pending a full inquiry by the FIFA Ethics Committee. Bin Hammam's allegations against his challenger FIFA president Sepp Blatter, whom he accused of knowing about the payments made, were rejected by the Ethics Committee.
Fernando, who is also a member of AFC executive committee, said it is just a provisional suspension and it will be tough for FIFA to prove the charges against the 62-year-old Qatari.
"They haven't been able to prove charges against bin Hammam and the AFC is confident that he will be back as president in a month's time," Fernando told IANS from Zurich.
Fernando said FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke's leaked e-mail to Warner shows that "bin Hammam's suspension was politically motivated."
"Valcke's letter to Warner shows that there was a conspiracy to block bin Hammam's candidacy," said Fernando.
An anrgy Warner Sunday released an extract from an email sent to him by Valcke on May 18, a report in the Daily Telegraph said.
Warner claimed Valcke's email read: "For MBH (Mohammad bin Hammam), I never understood why he was running if really he thought he had a chance of just being an extreme way to express how much he doesn't like anymore JSB (Joseph Sepp Blatter).
"Or he thought you can buy Fifa as they bought the WC (World Cup). I have a bet since day one, he will withdraw but on June 1 after his 10-minute speech."