If nothing else, the 2009 AFC Congress proved that Mohamed bin Hammam is one of football's great survivors. Confronted with the biggest challenge of his seven-year Asian presidency, he faced off against a formidable rival, endured a barrage of personal abuse and saw many of his closest allies turn against him before squeaking home by two votes to hold on to his Fifa seat. 'My best friends let me down,' Bin Hammam said, with a hint of sadness. 'But other people came from everywhere to support me and lift me up when I was feeling demoralised.' The victory came on his 60th birthday. Before the drama of Friday's AFC Congress unfolded in Kuala Lumpur, many of Asia's 46 football nations were still weighing up their options, but the word was out that the sport's two most powerful men - Fifa president Sepp Blatter and Uefa chief Michel Platini - were firmly behind Bahraini challenger Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa. On the surface, Platini was a distant and peripheral figure during Asia's big moment in the spotlight that came after semi-final week in the Uefa Champions League. 'I have no comment to make about this election,' Platini said. 'This region has nothing to do with me.' But, according to congress insiders, the Frenchman had plenty to gain if Bin Hammam had been toppled. The Qatari had pledged to step down as AFC president if he failed to hold on to the Fifa executive committee seat for West Asia. 'Bin Hammam is viewed as the one big threat to Platini becoming the next Fifa president,' one source said. 'Both Platini and Blatter saw this as an opportunity to get rid of Bin Hammam.' Publicly though, Blatter was doing his best to be seen as supporting the status quo, cheerfully passing on birthday greetings to the AFC boss from former Fifa president Joao Havelange, who turned 93 on Friday. Kuwait, big supporters of Sheikh Salman's bid, were finally granted their voting rights on the morning of the congress - along with Afghanistan, Brunei, Laos, Mongolia and East Timor - after earlier being excluded for falling foul of AFC regulations. Given his voice, Kuwait FA president Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah more than made the most of it. Three times the burly Kuwaiti, in his flowing white robes, made the long walk from his seat to the stage, arriving breathless at the microphone: 'I need to be in better fitness to go and come like this,' he said to the chuckling crowd before his tone turned serious as he questioned how Bin Hammam was spending the AFC's money. On his fourth attempt to speak, the AFC boss shut him down: 'You've already taken the floor so many times already,' he said. Sheikh Ahmad is also president of the Olympic Council of Asia, a non-football group that was throwing considerable resources behind the challenger's camp. What may have helped swing things in Bin Hammam's favour was his decision to scrap the unpopular vote on relocating the AFC's headquarters, which effectively assures its future in Kuala Lumpur. By hastily eliminating item 13 on the congress' agenda to rapturous applause, Bin Hammam may have earned himself a lucky break. Whether it was his previous day's meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak that turned the tide, or just an expedient, political move, we'll never know. 'For many delegates, his idea of shifting Asia's base away from Malaysia was the last straw,' said an AFC insider. Even so, Bin Hammam had to fight all the way in a nail-biting poll that had parallels with the 2000 US presidential election between George W Bush and Al Gore. An earlier vote to pass the AFC budget for the next four years provided an inkling that Bin Hammam may have had the numbers to survive. There were no Florida hanging chads, but the AFC count had its own drama with two delegates turning in spoiled or invalid votes. With 44 instead of 46 delegates counted, Bin Hammam claimed the smallest possible majority 23-21. 'The difference was just one voter,' said Sheikh Salman, whose polished and dignified performance suggested he could have more than just his 15 minutes of fame in world football. 'But now we must turn the page and move on.' Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, president of the Hong Kong Football Association, agreed that AFC delegates should act as quickly as possible to put the vitriolic election behind them. 'It's time we got back to basics and do what's best for football,' said Fok, who added that he was sounded out by both candidates. 'Now we need to forget politics and work together to develop the game.' But returning to normal will be easier said than done for the AFC as earnest calls for 'fair play' at the congress went out the window. In footballing terms, this was a cup final with four red cards, half a dozen bookings and a spate of injuries. 'This fight wasn't a sporting fight,' admitted Bin Hammam. 'But cuts have to heal. We have to look to the future and the future in Asia.'