John Yan: The Dragon will not hear the bugle call
Zhang Jilong is known as “Long Ge” (lit. “Big Brother Dragon” or the “Imperial elder brother”) But this “big brother Long” is just a flowery name, as the roar of the rivers and lakes [“pugilistic world”] cannot be counted on. At one time AFC First Vice-President, through fate and, due to the FIFA senior power struggle, he became the AFC Acting President and a FIFA executive committee member, but he has never been “Ge Long” and the power and influence of a big boss, in charge of a large retinue, belongs to a quite different galaxy.
Walking in the political arena of international football, Zhang Jilong was cautious, perpetually skating on thin ice, caught in the fight for Chinese football interests, but always a man in combat. The news of Zhang Jilong’s “sacrifice”, “to abandon the election for AFC President” was not generated by the domestic media. The news was first disclosed by Agence France-Presse, then other Asian media followed-up, before it finally flowed into the Chinese domestic media.
The response of public opinion to news of Zhang’s “sacrifice” was more anger than puzzlement, whilst Zhang Jilong was already in AFC headquarters in Kuala Lumpur cleaning-up business and lightening the mood, his empty seat pending the arrival of the new president of the AFC.
He will return to the AFC Vice President seat, probably safe until the term of office expires in 2015.
Within the system there are those jealous of Zhang Jilong, who at 60 should be in retirement if it wasn’t for his AFC duties. He may be lucky and do more than two years, I do not believe he will be able to stand down. He is not at liberty to return to his the birthplace because he is still a cadre within the system, even if the system has abandoned him.
The rumours of his withdrawal circulated in the media for a few days before the official confirmation.
Let Zhang Jilong withdraw from the election, surely it is entirely importune, ridiculous?
After the downfall of Bin Hamman, in the vote for the AFC President, Zhang Jilong is the representative of the East Asian Football Federation, West Asia has three candidates, including Salman, who challenged Hamman three years ago, and Southeast Asia also have a candidate. Zhang Jilong’s strength in the voting would certainly not have been dominant. OCA Saudi Prince Fahd and the Chinese sports authorities, are close and Fahd told China, Zhang Jilong had little chance of winning. The three candidates from West Asia will compete internally, the final winner will get all of West Asia ballots. Southeast Asia would not support Zhang Jilong. The general feeling was to minimise losses.
Two years ago, Zhang Jilong joined the AFC alone, taking up Hamman’s bloody legacy. Now he can finally put down the heavy burde. As he was two years ago, he is still alone.
This is a strange political phenomenon of sport, with little or no political energies Chinese football, has had a certain influence in the AFC only through Zhang Jilong and Zhang Jianqiang. The latter was deservedly imprisoned for corruption, but Zhang Jilong with more than 10 years of AFC experience, has always been a man.
Without the support of a team behind him, he went to help out when bin Hamman stepped down, but he was just a cadre within the system and it was the system which had the right to speak, not Zhang Jilong.
So when there was a choice to be made, between football and the Olympic project, the leadership chose the latter. The latter brought gold medals and glory to the country but football takes long to reach public acclaim – what can be done?
In the draw for the 2001 World Cup qualifiers, the Chinese team was assigned to a lucky group and Zhang Jilong was paid great tribute. For choosing the right numbers “Sports Weekly” even declared in its headline “Zhang Jilong is God”. The title was eye-catching, in line with the facts, and made the readers smile, but Zhang Jilong was furious to see this headline. He didn’t come from a football professional sports cadre origin, not from sports and even less a football background. He was not of the high-profile cadre, but rather involuntarily found this high-profile.
After ten years, Zhang Jilong still has a lot to do and the Football Association is increasingly far away fromwhere it should be. Chinese football was lucky to ascend to the vacant AFC President’s seat after the departure of Bin Hamman. Zhang Jilong had the ability to respond to the challenges of this position, but he was in an isolated environment, even if he listened carefully , he could not hear the roar of the crowd.
Is Big Brother Long at peace?
Does Big Brother Long still hear the roar of the crowd?
It has never been there.