Even in the world of international football administration, Beijing and Tokyo don’t let their rivalry drop. Candidates hoping to replace the scandal-tainted Mohamed Bin Hammam as president of the Asian Football Confederation are already jockeying for position. Zhang Jilong, who is filling the position in an acting capacity following bin Hamman’s suspension by dint of being the AFC’s senior vice-president, is a candidate, but far from the favorite to head the 46 nation confederation permanently.
Although he can count on the support of the majority of the 10 members of the East Asian Football Federation (EAFF), he won’t be able to rely on that of Japan, which already thinks China has too much influence over the EAFF though itself, South Korea (and Australia) are the region’s leading soccer powers on the field. Japan’s own candidate is likely to be Kohzo Tashima, general secretary of the Japanese FA. If he runs he can expect South Korea’s support but not that of China and its EAFF allies. Beijing sees little chance of Tokyo being helpful to its push to secure a FIFA World Cup, and vice versa. Beyond that lies the bigger rivalry.
The internal regional bickering is likely to mean that a candidate from West Asia such as the Bahraini Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa will emerge victorious. East Asia’s football federations will be left bewailing the continuing shift of power from East to West to the detriment of the growth of the sport in what should be some of its most dynamic countries.