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Football: AFC votes to merge top posts

The head of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) won a battle to merge the region's presidency with the FIFA vice-presidency Monday in a move which could help him increase his power at the next leadership election.

SAO PAULO: The head of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) won a battle to merge the region's presidency with the FIFA vice-presidency Monday in a move which could help him increase his power at the next leadership election.

At an extraordinary congress in Sao Paulo, where the World Cup will kick off on Thursday, the AFC voted in the measure championed by its president, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa.

The change had been fiercely opposed by Asia's current FIFA vice-president, Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan, who suggested the Bahraini sheikh was motivated by self-interest.

It means that whoever is elected as AFC president at a vote scheduled for next year will also take up the powerful position within FIFA.

"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.

"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," he added.

Prince Ali wrote an open letter in April decrying the move and saying sport should be "completely devoid of politicos and self-interest individuals and groups that exploit the sport and all its stakeholders for their own personal gains".

FIFA has fallen under renewed scrutiny ahead of the World Cup after reports said Asia's former soccer chief Mohamed bin Hammam paid millions of dollars in bribes to help Qatar secure hosting rights for the 2022 edition.

Sheikh Salman was elected as bin Hammam's replacement last year, but his current term expires in 2015.

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