Infantino kicks off new role as Blatter issues warning

ZURICH • Gianni Infantino will mark his first working day as Fifa president by playing in a football match with Swiss-based Fifa employees battered for months by an unfolding corruption scandal.

The match symbolises 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 predecessor Sepp Blatter for six years.

But Blatter has warned fellow Swiss Infantino that miracles will be expected from him and there will be plenty of backstabbers if he fails to deliver.

In an open letter to the lawyer, he warned his successor to be wary of the pitfalls that come with the job. He also said he was ready to offer his help if required.

"I congratulate you, but remember however that this position you wanted will not be easy. Miracles will be expected," Blatter wrote in an open letter published in French newspaper, Journal du Dimanche.

"I had these expectations for the last 18 years at Fifa which I served for 41 years."

Blatter said that the package of reforms to be implemented will help Infantino as he embarks on his new era in charge.

He said: "The miracles will be helped by the vote overwhelmingly taken for the reforms which I had also started. If by chance, you want an opinion or advice, do not hesitate. For now, stay calm. You have two months to implement the decisions taken."

Blatter said Infantino will be allowed a period of grace but could face stormy waters if reforms are implemented too slowly for the patience of federations and sponsors.

He added: "Prepare yourself well but be vigilant. While everyone supports you and tells you nice words, know that once you are the president, friends become rare."

The 79-year-old added that he was looking forward to other challenges in the future, now that he is no longer the Fifa chief.

"At 18:01 on Friday, when you were elected, a weight lifted from my shoulders," Blatter wrote. "I have now less responsibility and more time in my life. I am no longer president."

Meanwhile, Infantino paid tribute to Blatter for the role he played in establishing a new US$140 million (S$197 million) football museum which opened yesterday in Zurich.

"It's a really fine museum which reflects the universality of football. It's a very good idea of Sepp Blatter's, a museum which came from his initiative," he said.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 29, 2016, with the headline 'Infantino kicks off new role as Blatter issues warning'. Print Edition | Subscribe