In­fantino crosses to FIFA’s dark side

World Soccer - - Front Page -

Gianni In­fantino took time out from shuf­fling the deckchairs at FIFA to at­tend the Euro 2016 Fi­nal. Six months ear­lier he would have been ex­pect­ing to have been run­ning the show as gen­eral-sec­re­tary of UEFA. Then, of course, came the Blatter/ Pla­tini de­ba­cle and the Swiss-Ital­ian lawyer was parachuted into the mael­strom of world fed­er­a­tion pol­i­tics.

Not that any­one ap­peared to re­mem­ber his role in pre­par­ing the ground for Euro 2016 as In­fantino was not men­tioned among all the votes of thanks handed out by the great and the good at UEFA. It was as if he had crossed to the dark side.

Cer­tainly, In­fantino has been busy, with ap­point­ments to his pres­i­den­tial of­fice: new sec­re­tary-gen­eral Fatma Samoura and a new au­dit and com­pli­ance chair­man in Slovene ac­coun­tancy spe­cial­ist To­maz Ve­sel. More changes in per­son­nel are promised as the in­ter­nal re­struc­tur­ing into “ad­min­is­tra­tion” and “foot­ball” sec­tions con­tin­ues.

Samoura made her first high-pro­file in­ter­ven­tion, since her ar­rival from a United Na­tions post­ing in Nige­ria, at the fes­tiv­i­ties sur­round­ing the ticket-price an­nounce­ment ahead of the 2018 World Cup and 2017 Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup. Again, there will be a low­est-price Cat­e­gory Four for home fans, while the top-price ticket for the Fi­nal has now burst through the $1,000 ceil­ing.

Vi­taly Mutko, the mul­ti­task­ing Rus­sian Foot­ball Union pres­i­dent – who is also the world’s busiest sports min­is­ter, what with the Rus­sian dop­ing scan­dal – used the oc­ca­sion to prom­ise that crowd-con­trol les­sons had been learned from the Mar­seille mob vi­o­lence.

For­eign fans com­ing to Rus­sia for the 2018 World Cup, said Mutko, would find a land of safety, se­cu­rity and com­fort.

BBC Ra­dio foot­ball com­men­ta­tor Alan Green is one scep­tic. He has al­ready told his bosses that he has no in­ten­tion of go­ing to Rus­sia, whether any of the home na­tions are there or not.

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