KEIR RADNEDGE in SAO PAULO: Sheikh Salman Ebrahim Al Khalifa has firmed up his presidential grip on the Asian Football Confederation.

The Bahraini succeeded here, at an extraordinary congress, in overturning a vote a year ago on the contentious issue of the AFC’s FIFA representation.

This meant a defeat for reformist Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan who ousted South Korea’s Chung Mong-joon as Asia’s FIFA vice-president in the spring of 2011

Sheikh Salman, with the support of the Kuwaiti Olympic kingmaker Sheikh Ahmad Al-Sabah, had been working assidiously behind the scenes to gather support for a proposal to change the AFC’s statutes in his presidential favour.

This means that, from next year, the AFC president will automatically hold the FIFA vice-presidency rather than have to depend for a FIFA seat on winning an election for one of the ‘ordinary’ delegate slots.

Prince Ali, who had defended the status quo on the grounds that the roles were distinct in focus and effect, conceded defeat and the formal statutes amendment was thus approved overwhelmingly.

Doubling up

Sheikh Salman had insisted all along that his move against Prince Ali was not personal but motivated only so that the AFC could fall in line with four of the other five FIFA confederations in doubling up on the jobs.

Even though FIFA’s executive committee refused to intervene recently on Sheikh Salman’s side, it is believed that the statutes change met with the full approval of world federation president Sepp Blatter who has grown steadily more wary of Prince Ali’s approach and influence.

Prince Ali must now decide whether to challenge Sheikh Salman next year for the AFC presidency or contest election to the AFC’s West Asian region seat on the FIFA executive.

Shaikh Salman described the decision as “an important decision in the spirit of the AFC’s long-held tradition of democracy.”

He added: “Our member associations believe that this is the right decision for our organisation. The business here has been conducted positively, with great dignity and mutual respect and I am certain that we will move forward with this spirit of cooperation and unity.”

Congress also approved the other statutes amendments to approve various governance changes such as the adoption of an electoral code as well as the introductions of a code of conduct and formation of a dual-chamber ethics committee on FIFA lines.

Congress further approved a proposal from Iran for the creation of a Central Zone comprising Afghanistan, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

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