KEIR RADNEDGE in ZURICH: Gianni Infantino promised to restore the image of FIFA after scoring a surprise victory in the second round of the presidential election at congress here today.

Four months ago Infantino could never have dreamed of how his world would be transformed. Then the general secretary of the European governing body was suddenly parachuted into the elevtion race to succeed Sepp Blatter after UEFA head Michel Platini was suspended for ethics breaches.

All along Platini expected to return to the race but that proved impossible which left Infantino to carry the European banner forward.

Initially he met some resistance from federations elsewhere who blamed UEFA to Blatter’s downfall and resented being canvassed by a Plan candidate.

Infantino won them over by force of personality and by a punishing campaign which took him three times around the world with the crucial initial support grant of €500,000 from UEFA.

He also, for whatever help it provided in the second round of voting, was the most impressive speaker to Congress – switching between six languages, describing his whistle-stop educative journey around the world plus his competence as demonstrated by UEFA’s power, financial success and expertise.

On being acclaimed as president and accepting the job, Infantino promised: “We will restore the image of FIFA and everyone will applaud what we will do in the future together. The time has come to return to football.

“Football has gone through sad times; FIFA has gone through sad times.

“Now we must go forward. We need to implement the reforms and we need to win back the respect of the entire world through our hard work and commitment and finally, once again, focus on this wonderful, beautiful game that is football.”

But, before all that, Imfantino will have to hand in his notice formally from his role at UEFA which is now left not only within a vastly capable general secretary but also without a president as it heads towards the Euro 2016 championship in France in June and July.

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