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Schweiz FIFA Gianni Infantino
Image: Getty Images/M. Hangst

Now it's time to deliver

Chuck Penfold, Zurich
February 26, 2016

FIFA billed its Congress as a watershed moment when it would start putting its troubles behind it. Whether that turns out to be the case depends on whether Gianni Infantino can deliver, writes DW’s Chuck Penfold.


In hindsight, it shouldn't have come as too much of a surprise that Gianni Infantino won the race to become the man to finish former longtime FIFA President Sepp Blatter's last term in office.

As if we almost needed reminding at the start of the voting process, this was an extraordinary Congress brought on by Blatter's controversial re-election last May, followed within days by the announcement that he would step down. All of which was followed months later by an eight-year ban from football, which has since been reduced to six. As such, Infantino will simply finish the term that Blatter started last May.

Prior to the election, the Swiss-Italian had widely been seen as among the two front-runners for the president's post but still trailing Sheik Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa. However, the jovial, glad-handing Infantino remained confident throughout the days leading up to the vote and never tired of recounting how many countries around the globe he had visited on his "journey" towards world football's top job - often doing so in multiple languages. He also pointed to his years of experience in football administration while holding the UEFA's second-biggest job.

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But what went wrong with Sheikh Salman's campaign? Were some of the 207 eligible delegates scared away by allegations that he was implicated in the violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in his native Bahrain in 2011? He denied any wrongdoing, but it seems he didn't do enough to allay some delegates' qualms. German Executive Committee member Wolfgang Niersbach said as much after Sheikh Salman met with European delegates in a final campaign pitch on Thursday. This didn't cost Sheikh Salman Germany's vote, as they were squarely behind Infantino anyway, but it could have influenced others as FIFA looks to cross into a new era of good governance, integrity and transparency.

Now it is up to Gianni Infantino to implement all the high-minded reforms aimed at making the changes FIFA so desperately needs following the worst crisis in its history. Some have already criticized the reforms as not going far enough. But could we have really expected any more from this Congress than a small step forward? Anyway, pretty much everybody who stepped up to a microphone at Zurich's Hallenstadion on Friday, stressed that enacting the reforms they did pass, would be just the beginning of cleaning up FIFA's act - and that implementing them quickly is of the essence.

Like the other three candidates who made it to the vote, Infantino pledged to do just that. Now that he's got the job that he traveled so far to get, it's time for the new FIFA president to deliver.

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