altMay 8 - Mohamed Bin Hammam (pictured) today retained his seat on FIFA’s ruling Executive Committee by just two votes at a meeting of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).


The president of the Asian Football Confederation defeated Bahrain's Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa by 23 votes to 21.


There was much riding on the vote as Bin Hammam warned he would step down from the AFC if he lost.


He has held the seat on the Executive Committee since 1996.


The 60-year-old Qatari is seen as a potential successor to Sepp Blatter as President of world governing body FIFA.


The vote also has an impact on the race to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup as Bin Hammam had supported Australia's switch to the AFC and is expected to back their candidature ahead of other Asian candidates.


The election campaign was an acrimonious one and the result was uncertain until the very last moments of the AFC Congress which met in Kuala Lumpur.


Bin Hamman said: “To those who supported me today, thank you very much.


“I promise you that I am going to do more than I have done in the past.


"For those who chose not to support me today I also promise them I will do my best to have your confidence and trust in me next time.


“Asia needs all of us … both camps.


"We need to work hand in hand and we need to work together.”


Sheikh Salman accepted his defeat gracefully but said it was clear Asia was divided - and that bringing all its 46 member nations back together must be the priority.


He said: "I congratulated the president.


"We need to turn the page and move forward.


"But my message is clear, we have 21 countries unhappy.


"We have to ask why they are unahppy, and the president needs to win back their confidence."


Either man needed a simple majority of the AFC nations to win the vote, which was taken after an impassioned speech by Blatter.


Blatter said: "I expect discipline, respect and a fighting spirit, but all in the spirit of fair play."


Despite his victory, Bin Hammam, whose AFC term runs until 2011, faces a difficult few years ahead, with the Asian confederation riven by animosity, despite attempts Friday to play it down.


The campaign to oust him, led by heavyweights Kuwait, South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia, was highlighted by allegations of corruption and vicious personal attacks.


So distrustful were some AFC members that Blatter was forced to bring a Swiss notary and lawyer with him to act as an independent supervisor of the vote, amid fears there could be irregularities.


Bin Hammam's detractors claim he is dictatorial and that there is no transparency in the organisation's financial affairs.


They were also concerned about his proposal to move AFC headquarters from Malaysia and a plan to sign a 12-year marketing deal with World Sport Group.


But before the vote, Bin Hammam asked for the agenda item dealing with the plan to move AFC House to be removed, which was greeted by wide applause.


Bin Hammam said he had met with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak last night and won a promise that he would personally look into the AFC's conditions to remain in the country.


Malaysia has hosted the AFC since 1965, and its first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman served as the organisation's president for 24 years.


All 46 members of the AFC voted after Bin Hammam asked that Kuwait, which was expected to be barred for not having a properly elected committee, be allowed to take part.


The Qatari said he wanted them to vote in the interests of fair play.


Afghanistan, Brunei, Laos, Mongolia, and East Timor also voted after concerns that they might be excluded were ironed out.


Frank Lowy, the chairman of Football Federation Australia (FFA), welcomed the re-appointment of Bin Hammam.