ZURICH – Gianni Infantino pulled off a stunning victory Friday to take over as FIFA president, and called for a fresh start for soccer’s scandal-wracked world body.
“I am convinced a new era is starting,” said Infantino, who became a candidate only when a case of financial wrongdoing removed his own boss at Europe’s soccer body UEFA, Michel Platini, and departing FIFA president Sepp Blatter, from the sport.
Infantino promised to meet quickly with World Cup broadcasters and sponsors, saying “they need to regain trust and confidence in football and in FIFA.”
The 45-year-old former lawyer from Switzerland rose to the top job in the world’s favorite sport after a tense, six hour-plus election process to find Blatter’s replacement.
Infantino got 115 of the 207 eligible votes in the second round to earn a decisive majority over Sheikh Salman of Bahrain, who had been the strong favorite entering the election.
He saluted voters by patting his right hand over his heart, and had to compose himself before starting his acceptance speech.
“We will restore the image of FIFA and the respect of FIFA. And everyone in the world will applaud us,” Infantino said, referring to bribery and corruption investigations that have rocked the governing body and forced Blatter out of office after more than 17 years as president.
Sheikh Salman received 88 votes in the second round after being the front-runner during much of the four-month campaign. Prince Ali of Jordan had four votes, and Jerome Champagne of France got zero.
Infantino will be president until May 2019, completing the remainder of Blatter’s term.