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Bahraini sheikh wins Asia football presidency

Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa wins landslide victory to replace disgraced Mohammed bin Hammam as head of the AFC.

Last Modified: 02 May 2013 11:11
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Sheikh Salman replaces disgraced Mohammed bin Hammam who was banned from football for bribery [AFP]

Sheik Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa of Bahrain has won a landslide victory to be elected president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), replacing the disgraced former head, Mohammed bin Hammam.

Sheikh Salman also won the vote for the vacant seat on FIFA's executive committee, which had also been held by bin Hammam, defeating Qatar World Cup organising chief Hassan Al Thawadi.

In the election for AFC president, a position which gives controls of key football events in Asia, Sheik Salman comprehensively defeated two bin Hammam allies - Yousuf al-Serkal of the UAE and Thailand's Worawi Makudi - in a poll of 46 member federations.

"My mission is to reunite our confederation. My mission is to lead our family towards a future of growth and prosperity, a future based on good governance and integrity," Sheikh Salman said.

Human rights groups have accused the sheikh of leading a purge of players and officials during Bahrain's violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 2011, and had urged FIFA to block his candidacy. Sheikh Salman denies the allegations.

The presidential election result was greeted by loud celebratory cheers and shouts in Arabic from the floor after a speedy process carried out at a hotel in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

"Today, the Asian football family is at a crossroads. Today we have the power to erase a chapter in our history," Sheikh Salman said.

Sheik Salman got 33 votes in the first ballot, having needed 31 for outright victory. Makudi got seven votes and al-Serkal six.

Qatari bin Hammam was handed a lifetime ban from football in 2011 after being found guilty of bribery by FIFA's ethics committee.

The powerful Olympic Council of Asia was accused of lobbying on behalf of Sheikh Salman, and FIFA expressed concern over allegations that bin Hammam had also been active behind the scenes, despite his ban from football activities.

Former Saudi Arabian candidate Hafez Ibrahim al-Medlej, who withdrew from the race late on Wednesday, also suggested that FIFA had brought its influence to bear on the process.

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