New FIFA leader Gianni Infantino was hailed for being “not a politician, not a superstar” but as a reform-minded administrator who can lead the scandal-plagued football body into a brave new world.
The 45-year-old multilingual Swiss-Italian lawyer was elected as the new FIFA president yesterday, ending Sepp Blatter’s controversial, rollercoaster 18 years in charge.
“He’s not a politician. He’s not a superstar. He’s just very together, very organised,” said Greg Dyke, chairman of England’s Football Association.
“He has run UEFA really well and he’ll be great as the president of FIFA.
“I think we can be more optimistic about the future of FIFA now than we could have been certainly a week ago, after a terrible year. It’s been a corrupted organisation for a long time and now I think this is some hope for the future.”
Infantino had served for seven years as general secretary of UEFA where he was Michel Platini’s right-hand man.
But with Platini serving a six-year ban, Infantino entered the race and sensationally snatched the job so coveted by the Frenchman.
One of the men to lose out to Infantino in the vote was Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan who said he hopes to see FIFA make real progress.
“Now we will see which path FIFA takes. I sincerely hope that the reforms approved today we’re not just a band aid and that the events lead to a better future for FIFA and for football,” he said.
Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko, whose country controversially won the right to stage the 2018 World Cup, also said Infantino was the right man for the job.
“I am satisfied. We have supported him from the start,” Mutko told TASS news agency.
“I hope that everything he has planned will be realised. Football needs a pragmatic and experienced man like him.”
Wolfgang Niersbach, who last year stood down as president of the German football association after a scandal engulfed Germany’s successful 2006 World Cup bid, said Infantino was the “best candidate” but a tough road lay ahead.
“It’s a great day for FIFA, perhaps even historic which will decide the future,” said Niersbach.
“But the job isn’t finished. I have belief that Gianni will restore confidence in FIFA.”