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Gianni Infantino, FIFA President
Gianni Infantino is now the man who opens the doors in the soccer worldImage: Mikhail Metzel/dpa/picture alliance

FIFA boss with a flair for opportunity

Stefan Nestler
March 15, 2023

He is the most powerful man in the world of soccer — and not without a fair share of critics. The Swiss was always on hand to capitalize when a door was opened. Nowadays, he opens the doors himself.


DW looks at the chronology of Gianni Infantino's rise to become the most powerful man in the world of soccer.

March 23, 1970: Gianni Infantino is born in Brig in the southern Swiss canton of Valais. He is the third child of Maria and Vincenzo Infantino, who came to Switzerland as Italian guest workers. Infantino holds Swiss and Italian citizenship.

August 2000: After graduating from high school, studying law at the University of Fribourg in the west of Switzerland and his first professional stations as a lawyer, Infantino starts working for the European soccer association UEFA.

January 2004: Infantino is promoted to director of legal and club licensing.

October 2009: Infantino, considered a protege of then UEFA President Michel Platini, becomes general secretary, making him the second most powerful man in the association. Infantino, who speaks six languages, becomes known to the wider soccer public for his eloquent hosting of the Champions League and European Championship draws.

Michel Platini and Gianni Infantino
Michel Platini (left) and Gianni Infantino (right) have worked closely togetherImage: Fabian Simons/augenklick/firo Sportphoto/picture alliance

July 2015: In the wake of the FIFA corruption scandal, Infantino becomes a member of a 13-member committee tasked with initiating reforms in the world governing body.

October 2015: UEFA President Platini and Joseph Blatter, president of FIFA, are suspended from their posts and later banned for several years over an ominous million-dollar payment made by Blatter to Platini in 2011. Shortly before the deadline, Infantino applied to succeed Blatter as FIFA chief on October 25. "I can't just sit and watch FIFA destroy itself," says the UEFA general secretary. Platini had actually wanted to succeed Blatter, Infantino was only seen as a stopgap solution. 

February 26, 2016: At the FIFA Congress in Zurich, Infantino is elected as the new president of the world governing body. In the second round of voting, he receives the majority of votes and prevails over the favored Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa from Bahrain. "I want to work with them all to restore and rebuild FIFA," Infantino promises the delegates at the congress.

August 2016: FIFA's ethics committee closes investigations into Infantino. Critics had accused him, among other things, of squandering FIFA funds.

Gianni Infantino, FIFA President, smiles while holding a microphone
Infantino is looking to run for a third termImage: JINI/Xinhua News Agency/picture alliance

January 2017: The newly formed FIFA Council approves the expansion of the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams, starting with the 2026 World Cup, as advocated by Infantino.

May 2017: Ahead of the FIFA Congress in Bahrain, the FIFA Council chaired by FIFA President Gianni Infantino removes the two chairmen of the FIFA Ethics Committee, Hans-Joachim Eckert and Cornel Borbely, and other members without giving reasons.

March 2018: Infantino informs the FIFA Council about an offer from a financial consortium from the Middle East and Asia. The investors reportedly want to buy two FIFA competitions for around 25 billion U.S. dollars (just over 20 billion euros): first, the Club World Cup, which is to be reformed beforehand, and second, a global Nations League. This plan of Infantino's later comes to nothing.

August 2018: A new FIFA Code of Ethics is adopted. The word "corruption" is missing, and a statute of limitations is introduced for corresponding offenses.

June 2019: At the FIFA Congress in Paris, Infantino is confirmed as president of the organization for another four years by acclamation, i.e. without being elected. 197 of 211 associations had previously approved this procedure.

Joaan bin Hamad and Infantino shaking hands
Infantino has been an advocate of the World Cup in QatarImage: FRANCK FIFE/AFP

January 2020: Infantino is elected to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

July 2020: The Swiss public prosecutor's office opens criminal proceedings against Infantino. It accuses him of inciting abuse of office by meeting secretly with the head of the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland, Michael Lauber. In August 2020, the FIFA Ethics Committee stops its investigation into the matter due to a lack of credible evidence.

September 2021: Infantino's plan to organize World Cups every two years instead of every four years become known.

November 2021: Former UEFA president Platini reports Infantino to the French judiciary. He accuses his former friend of plotting against him before the election of the FIFA president in February 2016.

January 2022: FIFA confirms press reports that Infantino has had a second home in the World Cup host country of Qatar since the fall of 2021. The president spends half of his working time in Doha, FIFA says, and continues to pay taxes to Switzerland.

March 2022: Infantino announces his candidacy for a third term in 2023.

November 2022: The deadline for applications for the post at the head of FIFA expires without anyone being found to run against Infantino. This means that his re-election at the FIFA Congress in March in Rwanda's capital Kigali is set to be unopposed.

Ahead of the World Cup kickoff in Qatar, Infantino gives a bizarre-looking press conference. "Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel like a migrant worker. I feel like them because I know what it feels like to be discriminated, to be bullied as a foreigner in a country."

FIFA president Gianni Infantino with German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser
German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (r.) wears the "One Love" armband at the World Cup match between Germany and JapanImage: Moritz Müller/IMAGO

FIFA then went on to ban Germany and other participants from wearing the "One Love" captain's armband at the World Cup. "Football is played on the soccer field. Everyone can express their opinion, but when you enter the pitch, we have to respect soccer," Infantino said later.

March 2023: The Swiss Attorney General's Office drops investigations against Infantino. The matter concerned the use of a private plane in 2017 to get from Suriname to Geneva. The authorities have said that everything was done by the book. However, the investigations into the secret meetings with ex-Federal Prosecutor Lauber continue, the Federal Prosecutor's Office said.

This article was translated from German

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