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Sheikh Salman urges unity, promises reform in post-Hammam era

Updated: 2013-05-06 17:26

Newly elected Asian Football Confederation Chief Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa has urged for unity among Asian football family while promising complete reform for the regional football governing body.

Sheikh Salman became the biggest winner in the AFC Extraordinary Congress on Thursday by winning the AFC presidency and FIFA executive member seats in a convincing manner.

Sheikh Salman urges unity, promises reform in post-Hammam era

New Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa speaks during a news conference during an AFC Extraordinary Congress in Kuala Lumpur, May 2, 2013. [Photo/Agencies]

"My mission is to reunite our confederation; my mission is to lead our family toward a future of growth and prosperous," he told the member associations after winning the presidential race.

Sheikh Salman's unity call was echoing FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who called for "unity and solidarity for Asian football" in his own speech.

Sheikh Salman won 33 votes, a two-thirds majority in the first round of polling to win the election outright, defeating United Arab Emirate Football chief Yousuf Al Serkal and Thai FIFA Executive Committee Member Worawi Makudi.

Speaking at a press conference later, the Bahrain Football Association chief said the election result shows that "most of Asia are united."

"We have to bring the others into one pact," he added.

Sheikh Salman was widely seen as the strongest candidate after securing the support of the influential Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad AL-Sabah.

He also made good use of a narrow defeat in 2009 by AFC's disgraced former boss Mohamed Bin Hammam in the FIFA Exco seat election to position himself as a rival against the Qatari, who was banned by FIFA for life for bribery during the FIFA presidential race in 2011.

Sheikh Salman has promised reform in his campaign manifesto, including full financial transparency for the football confederation.

"What we need are very complete reforms," he said in his winning speech.

However, when asked if he can complete his reform agenda in a short two-year term, the Bahraini gave a vague response.

"There are many great things that can be done in two years' time. We should expect some changes and we'd like to see smooth transition to our goals and understanding between all member associations," he said.

James M. Dorsey, a football blogger and senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said the presidential election would either not going to make a difference or could worsen things for the AFC.

Zhang Jilong, who stepped down as AFC acting president after two-year of caretaking, urged the new president to "guide and lead AFC by example" while keep personal or political interests aside.

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