Martin Samuel: New FIFA boss "the least worst option"

By Martin Samuel

New FIFA President Gianni Infantino. Photo / Getty
New FIFA President Gianni Infantino. Photo / Getty

A bus driver known only as Mr V Kamaraj was said to have been killed by a falling meteorite in the state of Tamil Nadu, southern India, this month. Nasa scientists were sceptical.

They usually are with meteorite strikes. There have been no recorded deaths in the modern era, although an Alabama woman, Ann Hodges, did suffer a pineapple-shaped bruise on her left hip when one entered through her ceiling and rebounded off her radio in 1954.

Why are their stories pertinent to this week's events in football? Well, in Zurich yesterday, Fifa executives were gathered in huge numbers to elect the successor to Sepp Blatter. Never a meteorite around when you need one, is there?

Although not even a space rock the size of that thing in the film Armageddon could realistically do for Fifa. The two life-forms likeliest to survive in a post-apocalyptic landscape are cockroaches and Fifa executives, who will have hoarded all the breathing apparatus, piled into a secret shelter, then struck a deal with the mutant, radioactive insects by promising to let them host the next World Cup.

"We will restore the image of Fifa and the respect of Fifa and everyone in the world will applaud us," said the newly elected Gianni Infantino. "I want to work with all of you together in order to restore and rebuild a new era of Fifa."

And it's certainly a new era for world football's governing body. Blatter was a bald-headed, white guy from Switzerland with a background in sports administration, educated at the University of Lausanne and born in Visp in the canton of Valais.

Infantino is a bald-headed, white guy from Switzerland with a background in sports administration, educated at the University of Fribourg and born in Brig, 10km from Visp in the canton of Valais.

The difference is, Infantino is not banned from all football activity for six years following a corruption investigation, like Blatter. No, it's just his boss, Michel Platini, who is banned from all football activity for six years following a corruption investigation.

Infantino merely stood by his side for the last seven years, and nodded. And the most incredible thing? In the circumstances, he was the least worst option.

The man Infantino beat to the presidency, Sheik Salman bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa of Bahrain, has spent most of his campaign furiously denying links to torture and instructing lawyers to sue those with the temerity to raise the subject. There were two other candidates but they kept talking about transparency and sounded as if they might mean it, so they had no chance.

Blatter, still fighting to clear his name, said last week four of the five candidates had been in touch with him - Prince Ali of Jordan believed to be the exception. Announcing his candidacy, Infantino would not rule out making Blatter honorary Fifa president one day. Reports say the pair met over Christmas, and shared mulled wine, Blatter offering tips on holding office.

Infantino is cosily established inside football's hierarchy, with all that status entails. His victory has taken the usual route. Plenty of carrot and no stick. An expanded 40-team World Cup, with extra places for key confederations, and increased Fifa funding for individual countries, always popular in Africa and the Americas where many heads of association have put football's largesse to such inventive use.

The numbers are substantial. Infantino has promised US$5 million for each of the 209 member countries, US$40 million for each confederation, US$4 million for regional youth tournaments and US$1 million for travel.

"He has all the qualities to continue my work," said Blatter.

He meant it as an endorsement. Even kept a straight face, too. Just like the rest of them.

- Daily Mail

- Daily Mail

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