Infantino defeats Bahrain's Sheikh Salman to become FIFA president

Infantino defeats Bahrain's Sheikh Salman to become FIFA president
2 min read
26 February, 2016
Football's world governing body has chosen another Swiss administrator to succeed Sepp Blatter, snubbing a Bahraini royal with a dubious human rights record
Gianni Infantino has promised to restore FIFA's reputation after winning its presidency [AFP]

UEFA's general secretary, Gianni Infantino, has become FIFA's new president after securing 115 votes at the FIFA Extraordinary Congress 2016.

"I cannot express my feelings in this moment," Infantino told the gathering of FIFA members. "We will restore FIFA and the image of FIFA."

This result came after the second round of ballots were cast, as none of the five candidates managed to secure a two-thirds majority of 138 of 207 votes to win in the first round.

Infantino led the race after emerging from the first round of voting with 88 votes, leaving his closest rival Sheikh Salman trailing by three.

Coming in second, the 50-year-old president of the Asian Football Confederation ran a campaign that was marred by the royal's alleged involvement in human rights abuses in Bahrain. Outside the Hallestadion centre where the convention was held, a crowd of protesters had gathered to dissent against the Bahraini prince's candidacy.

This news will come as a relief to those who opposed the sheikh's candidacy, including the Reporters Without Borders organisation, which urged FIFA not to elect the Bahraini royal due to his country's imprisonment of journalists.  

Infantino, 45, promised more cash for member associations and an expanded World Cup as part of his manifesto. The Swiss administrator also said he wants to bring "a better way" to FIFA, an organisation that has been mired in corruption-related controversy that resulted in the sacking of its last president Sepp Blatter.

Also in the running was Jordan's Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, who entered the race with few expecting him to secure the presidency. The brother of Jordan's monarch ran his campaign on a platform that promised to turn the power structure of FIFA "upside down".

Al-Hussein secured only 27 votes in the first round, and a paltry four when ballots were recast.

The election of a new president is hoped by many within FIFA to usher in an era of renewal and change, after high profile scandals threatened the credibility of football's governing body.

At the conference on Friday, reform measures were adopted, with 179 members approving of proposals to change the body's structure, while 22 voted against and six abstained, at a congress seeking to turn the page on Sepp Blatter's tainted rule.