KEIR RADNEDGE in ZURICH: UEFA sent Gianni Infantino out to do battle with an acclamation of support for his attempt to become the second successive Swiss president of world football federation FIFA.
The 45-year-old general secretary of the European federation stepped up into the fray after UEFA president Michel Platini – the original favourite – was suspended from football over financial misconduct.
In cheering on Infantino at UEFA’s own congress, stand-in chairman Angel Maria Villar said: “Tomorrow is a day for us all to be united to elect Gianni as FIFA president.
“I am convinced that I speak on behalf of all UEFA member associations when I say that Gianni is the candidate world football needs at this time. He is not Europe’s candidate, he is the candidate for football in every corner of the world.”
Usually Infantino would have assisted in running the UEFA Congress being staged on the eve of the FIFA votes on both reforms and the presidency.
Instead he just spent a matter of minutes outlining the major planks of his manifesto before hurrying off to address the Oceania confederation.
There were no last-minute secrets; Infantino had also outlined his candidacy in a letter to all 209 national associations.
In it he said: “This congress is a crossroads moment for FIFA as the world governing body of the world’s No1 sport.
“The decisions taken on Friday will shape football for generations to come and your association has the opportunity to vote to help create a new path based on renewal, prosperity and trust. “These reform proposals and the election of FIFA’s next president are defining moments for the sport we all love.
“It is now or never for FIFA to embrace change and to bring football back to the heart of FIFA, strengthening investment in football development, engaging properly with Associations across the globe, understanding their challenges and meeting their needs.”
Infantino described himself as “a person who keeps his promises” and defended the increased aid proposals which had come under attack from Asian rival Sheikh Salman bin Ebrhaim Al Khalifa.
He said: “Increases in development and other assistance funds outlined in my manifesto can easily be put in place considering that I am proposing reinvesting back into football development only around $1.2bn out of over $5.5bn.
“Very significant savings can easily be made in FIFA’s costs so that the amount for reinvestment in football I am proposing can be safely delivered. This is what FIFA should be about – football development, not politics, political intrigues or personal attacks.”
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