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Is Gianni Infantino the next FIFA President?

Is Gianni Infantino the next FIFA President?

Uefa General Secretary, Gianni Infantino, is poised to take over as FIFA President, considering the eight year ban that Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini were handed by FIFA’s ethics committee.

While Platini intends to appeal, the February 26th election is too close to change the outcome. He said

“Parallel to going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, I am determined to apply to, at the right time, civil courts to obtain damages for all the prejudice I have suffered over very long weeks.”

In addition, FIFA itself wants to be seen to be tangibly fighting corruption. In recent months, multiple investigations against its current and former top officials have painted the organization in bad light.

Gianni Infantino is the strongest candidate going by endorsement from his current employer UEFA, which is likely to be the same position taken by all European Countries and South American countries which have also signalled support for him.

Other contenders for the FIFA’s top job include Prince Ali Bin Hussein of Jordan, 39, Jerome Champagne of France, 57, Tokyo Sexwale of South  Africa, 62 and Sheikh Salman bin  Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, 50, the Liberian FA chief Musa Bility; and the former Trinidad and Tobago captain David Nakhid. Each of these candidates have core weaknesses which make, Gianni Infantino stand out among them.

Mr. Infantino is 45 years of age, and holds dual citizenship of Switzerland and Italy. The Swiss-born lawyer has been Platini’s right-hand man at UEFA since 2009. Gianni Infantino joined UEFA in August 2000, working on a range of legal, commercial and professional football matters, and was appointed Director of UEFA’s Legal Affairs and Club Licensing Division in January 2004.

Prior to joining UEFA, Gianni Infantino worked as the secretary general of the International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) at the University of Neuchâtel, having previously been an adviser to a variety of football bodies, in Italy, Spain and Switzerland.

One of his greatest assets is that he is multilingual. He speaks English, French, German, Spanish and Italian fluently.

On October 26th, 2015, UEFA’s Executive Committee unanimously agreed to support his candidature. A statement from the committee said

“The forthcoming election for a new FIFA President represents a crucial moment‎ in the governance of the game and the future of FIFA itself. We believe that Gianni Infantino has all of the qualities required‎ to tackle the major challenges ahead and to lead the organisation on a path of reform to restore FIFA’s integrity and credibility.

“Gianni has done a great job at UEFA, has a proven track record as a top class administrator‎ and built positive relations with football stakeholders around the globe. He has been a long-time advocate of the need for change and renewed development at FIFA and would bring a refreshing and informed voice to the top table of football’s world governing body.”

In November, South American Football Confederation President Juan Angel Napout announced his support for Infantino, saying the continent will vote “as a bloc.”

Infantino has insisted that if he is elected to lead Fifa he would not stand down if Platini later wins any appeals.

A more appealing suggestion that Infantino has made is to increase the current number of teams competing in the World Cup from 32 to 40. He argued that

“I believe in expanding the World Cup based on the experience we had in Europe with the Euros. Look at qualifiers now where some teams who have never qualified did and some teams which have always qualified didn’t make it. So it created a completely new dynamic in the qualification. It created new enthusiasm. If you are serious about developing football it must involve more associations in the best football event in the world: The World Cup.”

When this can be actualized is certainly not 2018 in Russia since qualifiers have already started. Qatar is problematic since the plan is to squeeze the 64 games into 28 days to cope with staging the tournament in November-December 2022 rather than the traditional June-July slot due to the heat. Both Russia and Qatar bids are under investigations, as part of the wider FIFA investigations into Sepp Blatter’s regime, but the outcome of who hosts in these successive years is unlikely to change.

Past FIFA Presidents;

  • Robert Guérin – France (1904–1906)
  • Daniel Burley Woolfall – United Kingdom (1906–1918)
  • Jules Rimet – France (1921–1954)
  • Rodolphe Seeldrayers – Belgium (1954–1955)
  • Arthur Drewry – United Kingdom (1955–1961)
  • Stanley Rous – United Kingdom (1961–1974)
  • João Havelange – Brazil (1974–1998)
  • Sepp Blatter – Switzerland (1998–2015)
  • Issa Hayatou (currently acting) – Cameroon (From 9th October 2015)

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