February 29, 2016 / 4:10 PM / 3 years ago

New FIFA head Infantino starts work with friendly kickabout

ZURICH (Reuters) - Gianni Infantino began his new job as the boss of soccer’s governing body FIFA with a friendly football match on Monday, leaving matters such as his own salary for another day.

New FIFA President Gianni Infantino leaves the pitch after a friendly football match at FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland February 29, 2016. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

“I know you can’t believe it, but it’s not (for the) money that I was candidate to become FIFA president,” he told reporters after a match with employees and guests.

The Swiss said he expected the bidding process for the 2026 World Cup, delayed by the wide-reaching corruption scandal that engulfed the organization last year, to begin before FIFA holds its next congress in Mexico City in May.

The 2018 and 2022 tournaments to be staged in Russia and Qatar must be the “best in history”, he said.

Monday’s kickabout, played in freezing mist at FIFA headquarters, featured two seven-a-side matches involving employees and former professionals.

“Team Infantino” included former Portugal forward Luis Figo and former Italy defender Fabio Cannavaro.

Infantino, 45, wearing a No. 9 shirt, ran around enthusiastically, but barely touched the ball.

“The hard work starts now, but I wanted to organize a football match with those who make the game what it is,” Infantino said.

He said he had not discussed his salary following his election on Friday. The pay of his predecessor Sepp Blatter, suspended from soccer for six years, has never been made public.

The reforms voted in by FIFA last week to help it put the corruption scandal behind it included one on salaries being open to scrutiny.

Infantino appeared keen to get the ball rolling to pick a host for the 2026 World Cup. The process was supposed to have begun last year with a decision due in Kuala Lumpur next year.

“Definitely I think we need to launch the bidding process in the next couple of months, probably before the next Congress in May,” Infantino said.

Under FIFA statutes that prevent the same continent from hosting the tournament twice in a row, it will not be staged in Asia.

“Concerning Qatar and Russia, the decisions were taken in 2010 by the executive committee, but since 2010 there has been speculation and allegations and noise.

“It’s now necessary to organize the best World Cup in history in Russia in 2018 and in 2022 in Qatar,” he said.

FIFA has been forced to investigate the decisions on the two tournaments, and an investigation is also under way by the Swiss attorney general’s office.

The reforms passed on Friday include a separation of powers at FIFA, with a new Council due to replace the old executive committee and decide solely on strategic matters.

A separate general secretariat will run day-to-day operations and, crucially, make commercial decisions.

Infantino rejected the suggestion that he would enjoy less power than his predecessor, however.

“I wouldn’t say I have limited powers,” he said. “I was elected on Friday to be the leader of FIFA. The leader is setting the tone, the leader will have to do some convincing work of course. It’s not a dictatorship - it’s a democracy, it’s a participation.”

Editing by Ralph Boulton and Hugh Lawson

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