UEFA general secretary replaces banned Sepp Blatter at the helm of football’s world governing body.
Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter said it was a relief no longer being the football world governing body’s chief and thinks his successor Gianni Infantino “will do the right job”.
In an interview with the Associated Press news agency, Blatter said a weight was lifted off him at one minute past six on Friday evening when he watched on television as Infantino won the election to replace him.
“I had this burden on me. And now it is finished,” Blatter, who turns 80 next month, said as he enjoyed his first day out of FIFA’s employment since 1975.
The 45-year-old Infantino and Blatter were born in neighbouring villages in Switzerland.
Blatter praised Infantino as “a young man” who is “powerful and has a lot of energy”.
Blatter was suspended by FIFA in October after Swiss prosecutors announced he was the target of an investigation into criminal mismanagement and misuse of funds.
The former FIFA president, along with UEFA chief Michel Platini, was banned for eight years by the body’s ethics committee. The ban was later reduced to six years.
The 79-year-old Swiss national, however, warned that his successor will now face even higher expectations after the multilingual lawyer, who cut his teeth at UEFA where he was secretary-general, set out radical proposals for change.
“With the adoption of the reform programme, expectations on him will be even higher. But I am convinced that my successor will put them in place.
“With his experience, his capacities, his sense of strategy and diplomacy, he has all the qualities to continue my work and drive FIFA towards stability.”
‘Image’ and ‘respect’ of FIFA
In Friday’s election, Infantino received 115 votes during the second round of voting, more than the required majority of 104 votes from the 207 members.
The other favourite, Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, had 88 votes.
Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan had four and Frenchman Jerome Champagne none.
“We will restore the image of FIFA and the respect of FIFA. And everyone in the world will applaud us,” Infantino said, referring to bribery and corruption investigations that have rocked football’s governing body and forced Blatter out of office after more than 17 years as president.
“I want to be the president of all of you … It is time to return to football. FIFA has gone through hard times, crisis times. These times are over … We have to win back the respect, and focus on this wonderful game that is football.”