Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Infantino wins FIFA presidential election

Published:Saturday | February 27, 2016 | 2:00 AM
Swiss Gianni Infantino, new FIFA President, smiles during the press conference after being elected, at the Extraordinary FIFA Congress 2016 held at the Hallenstadion in Zurich, Switzerland, yesterday.

ZURICH (AP):

Gianni Infantino is the new president of football's corruption-scarred world governing body, winning the election after promising national leaders of the sport that he would share the wealth from FIFA's $5 billion World Cup revenues.

Infantino was chosen on the second-ballot yesterday to fill the unexpired term of longtime FIFA leader Sepp Blatter, who was forced out by the pressure of US and Swiss investigations of bribery and corruption that emerged two days before the previous vote in May 2015.

The stunning outcome seemed to catch the 45-year-old Infantino off guard. He had to compose himself before starting his acceptance speech and saluted voters by patting his heart with his right hand.

"We will restore the image of FIFA and the respect of FIFA, and everyone in the world will applaud us," said Infantino, who only became a candidate when a case of financial wrongdoing removed his own boss, Michel Platini, at Europe's soccer body UEFA.

"I am convinced a new era is starting," said the Swiss-born former lawyer. Blatter headed FIFA for more than 17 years.

Infantino pledged to meet quickly with World Cup broadcasters and sponsors, saying they "they need to regain trust and confidence in football and in FIFA".

There were only four candidates on the ballot after Tokyo Sexwale withdrew during his campaign speech to voters. The four were Infantino, UEFA's general secretary; Sheikh Salman of Bahrain, the Asian confederation president; Prince Ali of Jordan; and Jerome Champagne of France.

WORLD LEADER

Infantino, who had waged a globe-trotting campaign in the four months leading up to the election, gave an impressive 15-minute speech only 20 minutes before the first-round vote. The Swiss-Italian spoke in several languages without notes and portrayed himself as a leader for the world, not just Europe's wealthy confederation.

His campaign promised to spread the World Cup largesse to more federations, including additional guaranteed funds. He also pledged to expand the World Cup from a 32-team tournament to 40 teams, and give more opportunities to countries to stage the World Cup with multinational regional hosting.

"The money of FIFA is your money," he said, jabbing his left index finger to the 207 members of soccer federations from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe before the election.

"It is not the money of the FIFA president. It's your money," added Infantino, sounding more like a CEO promising a dividend to shareholders.

A rare burst of spontaneous applause followed, signaling a shift in momentum towards Infantino, who since his 30s managed the billion-dollar Champions League revenues for the UEFA.