Football: Four in the running to head AFC

Four officials -- three from the Middle East and one from Thailand -- have been nominated to run for president of the Asian Football Confederation, replacing the scandal-hit former boss.

Worawi Makudi of Thailand, Hafez Ibrahim al-Medlej of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa of Bahrain and Yousuf al-Serkal of the United Arab Emirates will vie for the top post, the AFC said in a statement Monday.

Their main task will be to clean up Asian football's top governing body after its former president, Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar, stepped down amid allegations of corruption which he has denied.

Worawi, al-Khalifa and al-Serkal all head the football associations in their countries. The nominees are all AFC executive committee members except for the Bahraini.

"The nominations will now be scrutinised and the list of candidates will be sent to the member associations one month prior to the congress," the AFC said.

AFC's current caretaker chief Zhang Jilong of China shocked football fans last week when an official close to him revealed he would not be running for president in the elections on May 2.

Former AFC secretary-general Peter Velappan said only a "fresh face" like al-Khalifa would be able to unite the AFC, riveted by corruption claims and infighting, and re-focus the body on the sport's development.

"For the good of AFC and Asian football, no member of the current executive committee should run for the presidency. The reason is that all of them are very close friends of bin Hammam and all of them contributed to the downfall of AFC and Asian football," he told AFP. "Let's have a new face."

He added it was a pity that Zhang had decided not to run in the elections in Kuala Lumpur, where the AFC is based, as he would have liked to see him take the lead for at least one term.

The 46-member AFC is the largest of six federations that make up the world's football governing body FIFA.

Bin Hammam, 63, was accused of trying to buy votes in FIFA's 2011 presidential vote as he challenged the powerful Sepp Blatter for leadership of the global body, and was banned from football.

The businessman formally resigned as AFC leader in December, shortly after FIFA launched a new probe into corruption claims against him.

The FIFA life ban was overturned but bin Hammam remains suspended from football.

The Qatari says he is the victim of a politically motivated campaign to ruin him. He was once close to Blatter but the two later became estranged.