• Says ‘Together We’ll Restore Image Of FIFA’
• Blatter, IOC Boss, Others Congratulate Him
A Swiss-Italian, Gianni Infantino, caused a surprise by polling the most votes in round one of voting in yesterday’s election to succeed Sepp Blatter as Fifa president.
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.
It is the first time voting for the presidential election had reached a second round since 1974, when Joao Havelange of Brazil became the first non-European president ahead of England’s Sir Stanley Rous.
In yesterday’s election, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordon was next with 27, followed by Jerome Champagne on seven. Tokyo Sexwale withdrew earlier.
Blatter, who led world football’s governing body since 1998, stood down last year and was later banned from football for six years.
Infantino’s camp has consistently maintained an air of optimism throughout the final days of this election campaign.
Infantino is a 45-year-old lawyer from Brig in the Valais region of Switzerland, less than six miles from Blatter’s hometown of Visp.
He only entered the presidential race when it became clear that Michael Platini, boss of European football’s governing body Uefa, would not be allowed to stand.
An emotional Infantino told delegates that he was finding it hard to “express my feelings in this moment”.
But he 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 put again 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.”
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.”
The television presenter then joked: “Have this weird feeling that Gianni Infantino will pull off his mask to reveal Sepp Blatter.”
Portuguese great Luis Figo added his congratulations, tweeting: “Finally the change arrived. It’s time for a new era in Fifa.”
Russian sports minister Vitaly said: “I am happy. We supported him from the start. World football needs such a pragmatist.”
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said he was looking forward to working with Infantino for “the sake of sport”.
Meanwhile, Blatter has reacted to the election of Infantino as new FIFA President.
According to The BBC, the 79-year-old Blatter issued a statement yesterday.
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.”
Infantino has a hard job resurrecting he fortunes after a number of damaging episode’s in the organisation’s history.
Criminal investigations in the United States and Switzerland have resulted in the indictment of dozens of football officials and other entities for corruption, many of them serving or former presidents of national or continental associations.
In addition, Fifa has been forced to investigate the awarding of several World Cup finals, especially the decision to grant the 2018 tournament to Russia and the 2022 finals to Qatar.
Swiss authorities are reviewing more than 150 reports of suspicious financial activity linked to those awards and said they had sent more documents, including an internal Fifa report to US investigators.
To help the new president tackle the crisis that has enveloped Fifa, key reforms were passed to help make it a more transparent and accountable organisation.
All salaries of Fifa officials will be disclosed, while a limit of four years has been placed on a president’s term.
A new council to replace the current executive committee has also been introduced, featuring a female representative from each confederation.
English Football Association chairman Greg Dyke said the reforms were “more important” than the new leader as they will provide an “opportunity for Fifa to start again”.
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