Football: Bahraini replaces bin Hammam as head of AFC

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Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa of Bahrain won a landslide victory to be elected president of the Asian Football Confederation on Thursday, replacing his longtime rival Mohamed bin Hammam.

A half hour later, he also won the vote for the vacant seat on FIFA’s executive committee, inflicting a stunning defeat on the Qatar World Cup organizing chief Hassan al-Thawadi, taking 28 votes against 18 for his rival.

When Sheikh Salman’s presidential vote tally was announced, his supporters’ cheers in the ballroom of a Kuala Lumpur hotel drowned out the announcement of his rivals’ totals.

In election for president, Sheikh Salman defeated two bin Hammam allies - Yousuf al-Serkal of the United Arab Emirates and Thailand’s Worawi Makudi - in a poll of 46 member federations.

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

Thursday’s election formally replaced Qatari official bin Hammam, who had been expelled from football by FIFA for alleged corruption.

Mohamed bin Hammam, the former Asian soccer chief and former FIFA presidential candidate resigned from all his positions in football and was given a life ban in December due to allegations of corruption leveled against him.

Bin Hammam was originally accused of trying to buy the presidential votes of Caribbean officials by handing them $40,000 each in brown envelopes at a meeting in Port of Spain one month before he was due to challenge Blatter in 2011’s FIFA presidential election.

He withdrew his candidacy and was subsequently banned pending investigations.

Bin Hammam was then banned for life after being found guilty of breaking seven articles of FIFA’s ethics code, including one on bribery.

Sheikh Salman gets 20 months in office to complete what was originally supposed to be bin Hammam’s presidential mandate. The next scheduled election is in January 2015, ahead of the Asian Cup in Australia.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter cautioned before voting that Asian football had more work to do in healing its divisions and rebuilding its reputation.

“I would identify this restart as an intermediary restart,” Blatter said. “Because then the right start will be in two years in 2015 and now you will have two more years to put your house in such an order.”

Sheikh Salman’s victory comes exactly four years after bin Hammam suffered a setback in the same city, which precipitated his rapid fall from power.

Then, bin Hammam retained his FIFA board seat by just two votes after a bitterly fought contest marred by accusations of vote-buying on both sides.

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