Europe's Infantino chosen to lead FIFA into new era

Fri Feb 26, 2016 7:21pm EST
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By Mike Collett

ZURICH (Reuters) - Gianni Infantino vowed on Friday to lead FIFA out of years of corruption and scandal after the former UEFA general secretary was elected to succeed his Swiss compatriot Sepp Blatter as president of soccer's world governing body.

"We will restore the image of FIFA and the respect of FIFA, and everyone in the world will be proud of us," the 45-year-old law graduate, who for the last seven years has been the leading administrator for Europe's governing body, told an extraordinary FIFA Congress in Zurich.

"I feel a lot of emotion and have not realized yet what has happened today."

After a first round of voting in which he narrowly beat Asian Football Confederation President Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, Infantino appeared to gather up almost all the votes that had been cast for the two trailing candidates, Prince Ali and Jerome Champagne.

He won 115 of the 207 votes in the second round, giving him a simple majority ensuring a European again holds the top job until 2019 and frustrating the hopes of those looking for a swing to Asia.

Infantino owed his candidacy to the fact that Europe's preferred candidate, his former boss and UEFA president Michel Platini, was banned from soccer last year along with Blatter for ethics violations.

"I thank Michel Platini for everything that he has taught me and given me and the work we have done together," Infantino said. "I have strong, dear thoughts for Mr Michel Platini right now."

Only the ninth president in FIFA's 112-year history, he inherits a very different job from that enjoyed by Blatter, who toured the world for 17 years like a head of state, dispensing development funds to his global support base.   Continued...

Newly elected FIFA President Gianni Infantino gestures during the Extraordinary Congress in Zurich, Switzerland February 26, 2016. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich