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Tuesday June 10, 2014 MYT 2:03:33 PM
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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. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad
(Reuters) - Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa won a crucial political victory on Monday when an extraordinary congress held in Sao Paulo voted to merge the region's presidency with the FIFA vice-presidency.
Bahrain's Sheikh Salman won a lop-sided election last year to replace disgraced Qatari Mohamed Bin Hammam, who was banned for life by FIFA in 2011 for corruption, for a two-year term at the helm of the continent's governing body of the sport.
The new AFC president, to be elected next year, will automatically assume the position of FIFA vice president, currently held by Jordan's Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein.
"Today, we have reached an important decision in the spirit of the AFC's long-held tradition of democracy," Sheikh Salman said in a statement.
"We have decided that the seat of FIFA vice president should go to the AFC president. Our member associations believe that this is the right decision for our organisation."
In an open letter to the Asian soccer community in April, Prince Ali had criticised the move as politically-motivated.
Last year, Sheikh Salman also won a separate election against Qatari Hassan Al Thawadi for a four-year term on FIFA's executive committee.
The AFC has four seats in total on FIFA's decision-making body, three of which will come up for re-election in 2015, and also has Australia's Moya Dodd as a co-opted member representing women's football.
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Greg Stutchbury)
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