KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: FIFA president Gianni Infantino has launched a remarkable personal attack on departed Domenico Scala after a week in which the world football federation remained apparently as embattled as ever.
First came continuing controversy over the management of last month’s congress in Mexico City then revelations of how predecessor Sepp Blatter and his senior officials had enriched themselves to the tune of $80m over the last five years.
Infantino, elected as president only in February and hence in office now for 100 days, was criticised over the manner of the appointment of United Nations official Fatma Soumara as new secretary-general and a regulation change which reversed the reform process.
In hitting back Infantino, in interviews with French and German language newspapers, sought both to justify his own work thus far and attack Scala, the now-resigned audit committee chairman with whom he had crossed swords – including over his salary.
Infantino said that a priority had been to rebuild unity within world football administration but conceded that recent weeks had been difficult notably after the departure of Scala. The new head of world football had learned of the Swiss businessman’s resignation only after both men stepped off the same flight home from Mexico City.
Infantino said: “I would have found it a bit more elegant if he had informed me beforehand. But obviously, he was rather proud of his little bombshell. Like the fact that he told journalists he had travelled in business while I was in first class.
“This is children’s playground behaviour.”
Infantino denied that the controversial regulation change which wiped away the guaranteed independence of the judicial commissions had jeopardised the reform process.
He dismissed such criticism as “pure conjecture, malicious speculation” and turned his fire again on what he considered Scala’s lack of understanding of sports governance.
Infantino said: “Domenico Scala thinks football should be run on the same management principles as a pharmaceutical company or pesticide manufacturer. This is a major error of judgment because it underestimates both the passion and geopolitical dimensions of football.”
But Scala, said Infantino, had come to football management late – in 2012 – “and so I forgive him his shortcomings and errors in judgment.”
Not that his words contained much forgiveness.
Infantino raged on that “the chairman of the audit and compliance commission believed himself to be almighty,” adding: “The day after my election on February 27 he convened the international media for an ‘off the record’ conference during which he said, basically, that I could not move a finger without asking his opinion.
“If he had wanted to become the real boss of FIFA then he should have had the courage to stand for election.”