Get Recruited Faster with a Player Profile on

Global Feb 26, 2016

FIFA elect Gianni Infantino its new president in upset as U.S. Soccer leads influential voting bloc

Strikers Logo

FIFA elected Swiss-Italian executive Gianni Infantino its new president at an “extraordinary congress” called to replace scandal-hit boss Sepp Blatter in Zurich on Friday, promising major reform to a powerful organization plagued by accusations of chronic corruption amidst a sweeping criminal investigation by U.S. and Swiss authorities.

The final result surprised many observers who expected Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, head of the Asian Football Confederation, to take the top prize. Infantino narrowly edged Sheikh Salman in the first round of voting, which also included Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan – the first choice of the U.S. Soccer Federation – and Frenchman Jerome Champagne, and then saw much of Prince Ali’s support flock to his side in the second and decisive round.

+READ: Sixteen more FIFA officials arrested, indicted in U.S. Dept. of Justice corruption investigation

Many pundits suggested that Infantino’s win will further strengthen the influence of European soccer in the global game, and it is widely seen to benefit the United States’ ambitions of earning hosting rights for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. But the Canadian Soccer Association looks determined to challenge their southern neighbors for that tournament, and supported Infantino in both rounds of Friday’s vote.

According to federation president Sunil Gulati, U.S. Soccer voted for Prince Ali in the first round, then switched its vote to Infantino, who “knew we would be with him when it mattered as long as he was in the race,” as Gulati explained to FOX after the election.

The United States was one of 27 member nations to vote for Prince Ali, and the subsequent shift of most of those votes to Infantino proved a decisive factor in his victory. The USA’s actual ballot was delivered by Major League Soccer Commissioner and USSF board member Don Garber.

“I cannot express my feelings in this moment,” said Infantino, a longtime official with UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, who up to this point was recognized mainly as the man who drew balls out of glass globes at draws for the UEFA Champions League.

“I went through an exceptional journey,” he continued, referring to his marathon campaign tour through more than 100 nations. “We will restore the image of FIFA and the respect of FIFA … We have to be proud of FIFA, we have to be proud of what we will do together.

“It was a sporting competition and it was a great sign of democracy in FIFA,” Infantino said of the election.

+READ: Carli Lloyd, Jill Ellis win top FIFA individual awards for 2015

Earlier in the day, the congress had voted to implement a package of reforms designed to fight the widespread perception that FIFA is deeply corrupt, including term limits for the organization’s president, a new council to replace the powerful, shadowy Executive Committee and provisions for greater female representation from each of the world’s six confederations.

gulatiThe sport’s governing body remains under the shadow of an extensive and ongoing investigation led by the U.S. Department of Justice, which has already collared a long list of executives on corruption charges.

Infantino himself was a last-minute entry into the race to follow Blatter, who led FIFA for more than 17 years but was suspended from his post last year after charges that he authorized a seven-figure payment to UEFA leader Michel Platini to dissuade the Frenchman from running against him for the presidency.

Infantino, who grew up in the same Swiss mountain valley as Blatter, previously served as Platini’s second-in-command and did not enter the election until the ongoing investigation of Platini’s role in the Blatter corruption scandal ruled out Platini – who was once seen as the odds-on favorite to succeed Blatter as president.

Infantino raised eyebrows when he campaigned on a pledge to distribute $5 million in developmental funding to each of FIFA’s 209 member nations, nearly double what they receive at present. But on Friday he emphasized themes of optimism, renewal and revitalization in his victory speech.

“I want to be the president of all of you,” he said. “I traveled through the globe and I will continue to do this. I want to work with all of you to restore a new era in FIFA … to put football at the center of the stage.”

Featured Players

See Commitment List