Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed bin Hammam narrowly retained his FIFA executive committee seat after one of the most bitetr campaigns regional football has known.
The 60-year-old Qatari survived a challenge from Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa by winning a vote at the AFC congress here 23 to 21. Two ballots were spoiled.
It was the culmination of a bitter fight for power in which Bin Hammam, who has held the FIFA position since 1996, had threatened to step down as Asia’s most powerful football figure if he was defeated.
“Both sides have to come together and heal and look to the future of Asian football,” he said.
“To those who supported me, I promise I am going to do more than what I have done in the past. To those who didn’t support me, I will do my best to win back your confidence and trust.
“Asia needs all of us to work hand in hand together.”
Sheikh Salman accepted his defeat gracefully but said it was clear Asia was divided and bringing all its 46 member nations back together must be the priority.
“I congratulated the president. We need to turn the page and move forward,” he said.
“But my message is clear, we have 21 countries unhappy. We have to ask why they are unhappy and the president needs to win back their confidence.”
Despite his victory, Bin Hammam, whose AFC term runs until 2011, faces a difficult few years with the organisation riven by internal feuds.
But he refused to change his style of leadership, which has led to claims that he has become dictatorial.
“I am definitely not going to change my style,” he said.
“I have full democracy and transparency in the way I act as president. I respect the rules.”