Football: Gianni Infantino hailed as right man, right time for Fifa

Gianni Infantino of Switzerland, new Fifa President, during a press conference after being elected as new FIFA President at the Extraordinary FIFA Congress 2016 at the Hallenstadion in Zurich, Switzerland, on Feb 26, 2016.
Gianni Infantino of Switzerland, new Fifa President, during a press conference after being elected as new FIFA President at the Extraordinary FIFA Congress 2016 at the Hallenstadion in Zurich, Switzerland, on Feb 26, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

PARIS (AFP) - New Fifa leader Gianni Infantino was hailed for being "not a politician, not a superstar" and a reform-minded administrator who can lead the scandal-plagued football body into a brave new world.

The 45-year-old multilingual Swiss-Italian lawyer was elected as the new Fifa president on Friday, ending Sepp Blatter's controversial, rollercoaster 18 years in charge.

"He's not a politician. He's not a superstar. He's just very together, very organised," said Greg Dyke, chairman of England's Football Association.

"He has run UEFA really well and he'll be great as the president of FIFA.

 
 

"I think we can be more optimistic about the future of FIFA now than we could have been certainly a week ago, after a terrible year. It's been a corrupted organisation for a long time and now I think this is some hope for the future." Infantino had served for seven years as general secretary of UEFA where he was Michel Platini's right-hand man.

https://twitter.com/Gianni_2016/status/703282125039124480

But with Platini serving a six-year ban, Infantino entered the race and sensationally snatched the job so coveted by the Frenchman.

Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko, whose country controversially won the right to stage the 2018 World Cup, also said Infantino was the right man for the job.

"I am satisfied. We have supported him from the start," Mutko told TASS news agency.

"I hope that everything he has planned will be realised. Football needs a pragmatic and experienced man like him."

Wolfgang Niersbach, who last year stood down as president of the German football association after a scandal engulfed Germany's successful 2006 World Cup bid, said Infantino was the "best candidate" but a tough road lay ahead.

"It's a great day for Fifa, perhaps even historic which will decide the future," said Niersbach.

"But the job isn't finished. I have belief that Gianni will restore confidence in FIifa."

Francois Carrard, who headed Fifa's independent reform committee, said Infantino represented the "best possible outcome".

"He was always promoting the most aggressive reforms. He knows football," said Carrard.

Infantino's election also brought praise from former players - both the tongue-in-cheek and the serious.

"Have this weird feeling that Gianni Infantino will pull off his mask to reveal Sepp Blatter," wrote former England striker Gary Lineker on Twitter.

Portugal legend Luis Figo, who once even pondered entering the race for the FIFA presidency, said the arrival of Infantino represented a new dawn for the sport.

"Congratulations @Gianni-2016 finally the change arrived - it's time for a new era in FIFA," tweeted Figo.

Best of the rest: "Infantino, he was the brain of UEFA, a computer. He's a guy who can speak six or seven languages, a lawyer who is familiar with all the little details. He sorted out UEFA, he can sort out FIFA also." - Michal Listkiewicz, former president of the Polish football federation.

"Infantino elected president of FIFA, the pill must be hard to swallow for Michel Platini." - Former French coach Raymond Domenech on Twitter.

"This is what was needed to help advance football again. This is what FIFA needed.... Infantino's campaign was amazing .. but now the real work begins." - Dutch football federation (KNVB) director of football Bert van Oostveen.

"This is magnificent. It's quite emotional when in four months you have managed to get most of the world behind you. I expect a lot from Gianni. We should welcome him as the new president of FIFA." - KNVB president Michael van Praag.

"I am sure FIFA under the able leadership of Mr. Infantino will continue to give India its due importance and cooperation for the development and promotion of football." - All-India Football Federation (AIFF) vice-president Subrata Dutta to AFP.

"I am happy as this is the best solution for FIFA. I liked that the campaign was conducted very correctly, very democratically with mutual respect." - Belgian FIFA executive committee member Michel D'Hooghe to AFP.

"I don't even know who is running." - Disgraced Trinidad and Tobago football boss Jack Warner, claiming he had no interest in Friday's election.

"The South African Football Association (SAFA) now looks forward to the practical implementation of the promises to increase the number of African teams in the World Cup and increase the number of African members on the executive of FIFA." - SAFA president Danny Jordaan to AFP.