FIFA head Infantino must mend bridges, sort out finances

Sun Feb 28, 2016 3:02am EST
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By Brian Homewood

ZURICH (Reuters) - Gianni Infantino will mark his first working day as president of soccer's governing body on Monday by playing in a soccer match with Swiss-based FIFA employees battered for months by an unfolding corruption scandal.

The match symbolizes a return to the primary focus of FIFA that for some has been lost in tales of high-living by top executives and abuses that culminated in the banning of Infantino's veteran predecessor Sepp Blatter for six years.

When he walks into the presidential office at FIFA's headquarters on a Zurich hilltop, the new incumbent will quickly have to deal with financial and administrative problems, bring back sponsors, motivate a demoralized work force and engage with clubs and players who are growing increasingly disillusioned.

Previously general secretary of European soccer's governing body UEFA, Infantino must also dispel the notion he was elected to represent only the interests of his own powerful continent. Some had expected a Bahraini rival to win the post in a tilt towards Asia for the sport.

FIFA has been the subject of criminal investigations in the United States and Switzerland, although these will be lurking uncomfortably in the background rather than an immediate worry.

The same goes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, awarded to Russia and Qatar in a highly controversial vote in 2010 and the subject of the Swiss investigation.

One of the Swiss national’s earliest tasks will be to appoint a secretary general to take charge of day-to-day operations, a post Infantino has already indicated will go to a non-European.

Another priority will be to lift the morale of the 400-odd employees at FIFA, many of whom are highly-qualified and have soldiered on for the last eight months trying to ignore the chaos at the top.   Continued...

Newly elected FIFA President Gianni Infantino arrrives for a news conference during the Extraordinary FIFA Congress in Zurich, Switzerland February 26, 2016.  REUTERS/Ruben Sprich