Kuala Lumpur: Asian football bosses on Friday decided against holding immediate elections to replace disgraced former chief Mohammed bin Hammam, who was banned for life by FIFA over corruption charges.
Despite calls from some members including Japan and Jordan for an immediate vote, interim Asian Football Confederation (AFC) head Zhang Jilong of China managed to convince an executive meeting to put off elections until May 2012.
Zhang has led the AFC on a caretaker basis since last month, after bin Hammam was banned over a vote-buying scandal, and chaired a special executive meeting at AFC headquarters near Kuala Lumpur.
Afterwards the AFC said its legal committee had ruled that a meeting to elect a new president could only be called once the office had been vacant for more than a year.
"This means that an extraordinary congress for this purpose could not be convened until after 30 May, 2012," the AFC said in a statement.
On Tuesday, Japan Football Association president Junji Ogura said an immediate election was vital after bin Hammam was banned from the sport.
FIFA vice president Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan had also pressed for the replacement of Qatari bin Hammam.
Zhang made an impassioned appeal urging the Asian football chiefs to work towards promoting the game and safeguarding its interests.
He also called on the members to join hands and face the current challenges confronting the Asian game "like a concerned and united family."
"Today I will speak to you from the heart. Today I will address you not only as the acting president of AFC and the chairman of this executive committee but also as a very concerned fan and supporter of Asian football," Zhang said.
"Football is the No 1 sport in Asia. It is followed by millions of people and today everybody is looking to us for leadership and assurance. Our fans and sponsors want to be reassured that Asian football will not be affected by this great misfortune."
Peter Velappan, AFC general secretary for 30 years said, said Friday's meeting took almost six hours to complete, with members discussing the issue of presidential elections extensively.
"I would have favoured a decision to have an election for a new president," he told AFP.
Last Saturday FIFA's ethics committee banned bin Hammam from all football-related activity at national and international level after being found guilty of graft during the world ruling body's presidential elections in June.
The 62-year-old was found guilty of using cash-stuffed envelopes to try to buy votes in his bid to topple powerful president Sepp Blatter.