Gianni Infantino vowed to reunite football and focus on developing the game instead of politics after being chosen as Fifa’s ninth president.
The Fifa election entered a second round of voting for the first time in 42 years after Infantino of Switzerland secured more backing than many people’s favourite, Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al- Khalifa of Bahrain in the first round. Initially a two-thirds majority was required to win, but a simple majority of more than 50 per cent – 104 votes – was sufficient for victory in the second round at the world governing body’s extraordinary congress in Zurich. And Uefa general secretary Infantino, the man backed by the Scottish FA, the English FA and Sir Alex Ferguson, secured 115 votes to Salman’s 88 to become the second successive Swiss president, after Sepp Blatter. The lawyer, 45, is from Brig in the Valais region of Switzerland, less than six miles from Blatter’s hometown of Visp.
Five candidates had been in the running to succeed Blatter, but South African Tokyo Sexwale withdrew his candidacy moments prior to the first round of voting. Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein had 27 votes in the first round and four in the second, while Jerome Champagne had seven and then none as Infantino secured the additional votes required to become Fifa’s first new president since 1998. Prince Ali’s backers turned to Infantino, who also profited from a split vote from African associations, which had 54 votes.
Infantino said: “I don’t agree that football is divided. Today it was an election, but not a war. It was a competition, but not a fight. It was a sporting contest. An election you win, you lose and then life goes on.
“I count very much on Africa as I count very much on Asia, and on Oceania and on North, Central, South America as well to work together.
“The election’s taken place, I’ve been elected, now we turn the page, we start to work, we work good together and I show the whole world I’m not a candidate of Europe or wherever. I’m a candidate of football and football is universal.
“This is what we’ll start to do now in Fifa: to work with everyone for the development of football and not to do politics, to speak about divisions, to speak about barriers.
“I said today we have to build bridges, not to build walls. Football can certainly do that. I want to focus on football.
“If we do that we can speak, discuss and agree and develop football everywhere in the world. That is my objective.”
Blatter was voted in on five occasions, including last May, but after his final success he stepped aside within days amid allegations which led to a six-year ban from football-related activity, which he is contesting.
The resignation of Blatter, who strenuously denies any wrongdoing, prompted the extraordinary congress in the most pivotal period of Fifa’s 112-year history at which crucial reforms were passed.
Infantino will serve the remaining term of office for which Blatter was elected last May, meaning there will be a further election in 2019.
“To the stakeholders – to national associations, leagues, clubs, players and to the fans – I want to say to all of you, you will be proud of Fifa, you will be proud of what Fifa will do for football,” Infantino added.
“Fifa has gone through sad times, moments of crisis, but those times are over. We’re going to win back this respect through hard work, commitment and we’re going to make sure we can finally focus on this wonderful game that is football. We enter now a new era. It was today an important congress, an extraordinary congress, where some ground-breaking reforms have been approved and where a president has been elected who certainly can and will implement all these reforms. We’ll restore the image of Fifa and make sure everyone will be happy.”