Gianni Infantino was on Friday elected to succeed fellow Swiss Sepp Blatter as president of world football’s governing body Fifa.
- Infantino, 45, becomes the ninth president in FIFA’s 111-year history
- He won by 115 votes, 27 more than closest rival Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa
- Infantino served for more than six years as secretary general of European soccer’s governing body
- South African billionaire businessman, Tokyo Sexwale, withdrew as a candidate just before the first ballot
- A multi-linguist, Mr. Infantino spoke in six languages — English, Spanish, French, German, Italian and, for a short spell, Portuguese — before the election, as he tried to connect with each region
- He won the presidency of his local soccer club at the age of 18
The Uefa secretary general polled 115 votes, 27 more than closest rival Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa.
Prince Ali bin al-Hussein (four votes) and Jerome Champagne (0) were third and fourth respectively.
Blatter, who had led Fifa since 1998, stood down last year and was later suspended from football for six years for breaching ethics guidelines.
Who is Infantino?
Infantino is a 45-year-old lawyer from Brig in the Valais region of Switzerland, less than six miles from Blatter’s home town of Visp.
He entered the presidential race when it became clear that Michel Platini, boss of European football’s governing body Uefa, could not stand.
Infantino has been with European football’s governing body since 2000, working in a number of roles. He knows the European game inside and out.
“I will work tirelessly to bring football back to Fifa and Fifa back to football,” he said. “This is what we want to do.”
The election was due to be fought between five candidates, but South African Tokyo Sexwale withdrew before voting began in Zurich.
The first round of voting failed to determine an outright winner, though Infantino led with 88, three more than pre-vote favourite Sheikh Salman.
A simple majority of more than 50% – 104 of 207 available votes – was sufficient for victory in round two.
Instead, Mr. Infantino prevailed in an upset, as FIFA’s voting members chose him, a Swiss administrator, to follow the suspended Sepp Blatter, who was once just a Swiss administrator himself, and try to lead global soccer out of its darkest period. Mr. Infantino, 45, becomes just the ninth president in FIFA’s 111-year history, a reality that is emblematic of its long-embedded resistance to change.
An emotional Infantino told delegates that together they would “restore the image of Fifa and the respect of Fifa”.
He added: “I want to work with all of you together in order to restore and rebuild a new era of Fifa where we can again put football at the centre of the stage.
“Fifa has gone through sad times, moments of crisis, but those times are over. We need to implement the reform and implement good governance and transparency. We also need to have respect.
“We’re going to win back this respect through hard work, commitment and we’re going to make sure we can finally focus on this wonderful game.”
On his nomination in November last year, he had promised to ensure “a Fifa worthy of governing the world’s number one sport with dignity and respect,” if elected.
FIFA’s members accepted a significant shift on Friday, ratifying an extensive package of governance reforms — including measures that diminish the president’s power — before electing Mr. Infantino to implement the changes, which he endorsed during his campaign.
The long-derided executive committee — notorious for decades of scandals, bribery and political intrigue — will be replaced by a 36-member FIFA council that must include at least six women.
Also, all salaries will be disclosed while a limit of four years has been placed on a president’s term.
Gary Lineker, an outspoken critic of Fifa and former president Blatter, wished Infantino “all the best” following his appointment.
The former England striker added on Twitter: “He’s got one hell of a job on his hands but seems a decent chap. Needs a sizeable new broom.”
Portuguese soccer star Luis Figo added his congratulations, tweeting: “Finally the change arrived. It’s time for a new era in Fifa.”
English Football Association chairman Greg Dyke said: “He is not a politician and he is not an ego. Fifa has been dominated by egos for a very long time. He is the type of person who will just get on with the job.”
Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko said: “I am happy. We supported him from the start. World football needs such a pragmatist.”
German football federation interim president Rainer Koch said: “We are happy and relieved with Gianni Infantino’s victory and the fact that European football will continue to have a strong influence.”
Norway’s Karen Espelund, a member of Uefa’s executive committee, added: “We needed someone credible, we needed a clean winner, a clean man. I believe we have that in Gianni.”
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said he was looking forward to working with Infantino for “the sake of sport”.
US Soccer president Sunil Gulati tweeted: “Congratulations. We look forward to working together to embrace reform and good governance.”
Beaten opponent Sheikh Salman said that the Asian Football Confederation would look forward to working with the new-look Fifa and its president to reform world football’s governing body and to “reinstate football’s credibility globally”
79-year-old Sepp Blatter issued a statement after the election. It read: “I congratulate Gianni Infantino sincerely and warmly on his election as the new president.
“With his experience, expertise, strategic and diplomatic skills he has all the qualities to continue my work and to stabilize Fifa again.”
Old kid on the block
Infantino is no infant in soccer administration. He ran in his first election at 18 — when he won the presidency of his local soccer club by promising that his mother would wash the team’s uniforms each week.
A multi-linguist, Mr. Infantino spoke in six languages — English, Spanish, French, German, Italian and, for a short spell, Portuguese — before the election as he tried to connect with each region.
“Now we turn the page,” he said. “Now we start to work.”
NP/BBC/New York Times