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Manama: ​The 26th AFC Ordinary Congress was successfully concluded in the Bahraini capital of Manama on Thursday. 

In his opening speech and closing remarks, AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa focused on unity and solidarity, as well as reviewing the main achievements of his two years so far in office, and laying out the challenges of the next four years.

The AFC President, who is now also FIFA Vice-President, paid homage to the AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 which was recognised as a great success in all respects.  The decision was taken in 2014 to expand the tournament from 16 to 24 teams for the next edition in the United Arab Emirates in 2019, whilst the qualifying format for Russia 2018 and UAE 2019 was made more inclusive.  In club competitions, the AFC Champions League has been opened up to clubs from 24 associations, compared to 11 in the past, and the AFC Club Licensing system has been revamped.

Shaikh Salman said “Our competitions are now better, more inclusive, and more attractive.  Intensive study and discussion led to these improvements to our flagship national team and club competitions.”

“In 2014 we also launched three new Initiatives for Asian Football – mini-pitches, funding for national youth teams and the AFC Expert Pool of specialists.  These were all created to complement the AFC Kick Off programme for clubs and leagues and to provide tailor-made development solutions for the AFC Member Associations.”

The AFC President described how the confederation had been stabilised over the previous two years and how the associations had come closer together through regular meetings and dialogue.  Various good governance measures had been taken, including creating a new Central Zone, the launch of a Governance Reform Task Force and the creation of a new AFC Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct.  Furthermore, the AFC has in the past two years launched extensive integrity measures to counter match corruption.

Other decisions made during the AFC Congress included the approval of the 2013 and 2014 activity report, statement of accounts and auditor’s reports.

The AFC President also outlined some of the priorities for his forthcoming mandate. He said: “In Asia we all recognise that we need to close the gap on the rest of the world.  The next four years, and beyond, will be about improving all our levels of competition, whilst simultaneously targeting all aspects of football development, for example in the area of coach education.”

The AFC’s new Technical Director Andy Roxburgh was also presented to the Congress.

Whilst welcoming the newly elected FIFA Executive Committee and AFC Executive Committee members, Shaikh Salman also thanked the outgoing AFC Executive Committee and all 47 AFC Member Associations for their continuous support, without which such key achievements would not have been possible.

Following the Congress, a short inaugural meeting was held with the new AFC Executive Committee members.