In­fantino vows to unite game as new FIFA chief

The Herald - Herald Sport - - FOOTBALL - MATT MCGEEHAN

GIANNI IN­FANTINO vowed to re­unite foot­ball and fo­cus on de­vel­op­ing the game in­stead of pol­i­tics af­ter be­ing cho­sen as FIFA’s ninth pres­i­dent.

The FIFA elec­tion en­tered a se­cond round of vot­ing for the first time in 42 years af­ter In­fantino of Switzer­land se­cured more back­ing than many peo­ple’s favourite Sheikh Sal­man bin Ibrahim al Khal­ifa of Bahrain in the first round.

Ini­tially a two-thirds ma­jor­ity was re­quired to win, but a sim­ple ma­jor­ity of more than 50 per cent – 104 votes – was suf­fi­cient for vic­tory in the se­cond round at the world gov­ern­ing body’s ex­tra­or­di­nary congress in Zurich.

And In­fantino se­cured 115 votes to Sheikh Sal­man’s 88 to be­come the se­cond suc­ces­sive Swiss pres­i­dent, af­ter Sepp Blat­ter.

The 45-year-old lawyer is from Brig in the Valais re­gion of Switzer­land, less than six miles from Blat­ter’s home­town of Visp.

Prince Ali bin al Hus­sein had 27 votes in the first round and four in the se­cond, while Jerome Cham­pagne had seven and then zero as In­fantino se­cured the ad­di­tional votes re­quired to be­come FIFA’s first new pres­i­dent since 1998.

Prince Ali back­ers turned to In­fantino, who also prof­ited from a split vote from African as­so­ci­a­tions, which had 54 votes.

In­fantino said: “I don’t agree that foot­ball is di­vided. To­day it was an elec­tion, but not a war. It was a com­pe­ti­tion, but not a fight. It was a sport­ing con­test. An elec­tion you win, you lose and then life goes on. I count very much on Africa as I count very much on Asia, and on Ocea­nia and on North, Cen­tral, South Amer­ica as well to work to­gether.

“The elec­tion’s taken place, I’ve been elected, now we turn the page, we start to work, we work good to­gether and I’ll show the whole world I’m not a can­di­date of Europe or wher­ever. I’m a can­di­date of foot­ball and foot­ball is uni­ver­sal.

“This is what we’ll start to do now in FIFA: to work with ev­ery­one for the de­vel­op­ment of foot­ball and not to do pol­i­tics, to speak about divi­sions, to speak about bar­ri­ers.

“I said to­day we have to build bridges, not to build walls. Foot­ball can cer­tainly do that. I want to fo­cus on foot­ball.

“If we do that we can speak, dis­cuss and agree and de­velop foot­ball ev­ery­where in the world. That is my ob­jec­tive.”

Blat­ter was voted in on five oc­ca­sions, in­clud­ing last May, but af­ter his fi­nal suc­cess he stepped aside within days amid al­le­ga­tions which led to a six-year ban from foot­ball-re­lated ac­tiv­ity, which he is con­test­ing.

The res­ig­na­tion of Blat­ter, who stren­u­ously de­nies any wrong­do­ing, prompted the ex­tra­or­di­nary congress in the most piv­otal pe­riod of FIFA’s 112-year his­tory at which cru­cial re­forms were passed.

In­fantino will serve the re­main­ing term of of­fice for which Blat­ter was elected last May, mean­ing there will be a fur­ther elec­tion in 2019.

“To the stake­hold­ers – to na­tional as­so­ci­a­tions, leagues, clubs, play­ers and to the fans – I want to say to all of you, you will be proud of FIFA, you will be proud of what FIFA will do for foot­ball,” In­fantino added.

“FIFA has gone through sad times, mo­ments of cri­sis, but those times are over. 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 that is foot­ball.

“We’ll re­store the im­age of FIFA and make sure ev­ery­one will be happy.”

Five can­di­dates had been in the run­ning to suc­ceed Blat­ter, but South African Tokyo Sexwale with­drew his can­di­dacy mo­ments prior to the first round of vot­ing.

In­fantino was mak­ing his way through the room – and al­pha­bet of mem­ber as­so­ci­a­tions – pos­ing for pho­tos and shak­ing hands, while wear­ing a beam­ing smile, as del­e­gates voted in the se­cond round. And soon af­ter the man backed by Europe, the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion, the Scot­tish FA, Jose Mour­inho, Luis Figo, and Sir Alex Fer­gu­son was cel­e­brat­ing vic­tory.

VIC­TO­RI­OUS: Gianni In­fantino raises a fist to cel­e­brate after be­ing elected as the ninth pres­i­dent of FIFA in Zurich

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