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Kuala Lumpur: Outgoing AFC Acting President Zhang Jilong has expressed his thanks and appreciation to all stakeholders who have contributed to the continuing success and development of the Asian game under his temporary stewardship.

While addressing the delegates at the opening of the AFC Extraordinary Congress, Zhang reiterated the AFC’s rich tradition of openness, democracy and culture of unity and solidarity and stressed that these values should continue to be displayed by all Asian football officials.

“I have served Asian football in various capacities for more than 30 years now. As I step aside today as the Acting President, I would like to advise the new president and the office-bearers to guide and lead the AFC by example and keep personal or political interests aside when governing Asian football.

“I would like to thank each and every one of you for your great support and cooperation during these last two years. I didn’t ask for the job. It came my way. And I am not one to run away from my responsibilities. I can see today that I have made a good Acting President and I can go back to my role as the Senior Vice-President with dignity. I can go back a happy man, knowing that I have done my best for Asian football.

“Asian football has a great future and I am happy that I have played my part in making that happen.”

Describing the period since filling the void following the lifetime ban of former AFC President Mohammed bin Hammam as one of the most ‘challenging’ in the Confederation’s history, Zhang pinpointed the success of Asian teams in international tournaments and also highlighted the AFC’s positive achievements in the field of development.

“Asian teams are earning success at the international level. Japan won the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2011 and the silver medal at the Olympics,” he said.

“Korea Republic won bronze in the 2012 London Olympics, Japan women’s team won and our junior women’s teams have made us proud in FIFA competitions. Asian teams are now regarded as title contenders in world events.

“Another notable achievement I would like to mention here today is the security of our financial position. This directly affects our operations capability and I am pleased that we are working closely with our marketing partners the World Sport Group to maintain our financial viability. Our finances are healthy and we should take pride in this fact because we have exercised prudence.

“Under the Asian Financial Assistance Programme, there has been a marked increase in the development funds available for the Member Associations and this will accelerate the football development activities at the Member Associations level.

“On the development front, we are progressing steadily and 2013 has been designated as Grassroots Year. We have also launched the Kick-Off programme and this is getting a great response.

“Here, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the esteemed President of FIFA and one of Asia’s best friends Joseph Blatter for his continued support and help to Asian football. AFC and FIFA are working hand in hand on several development projects, which indicate a strong desire on the part of FIFA to see Asian football reach new heights.”