FIFA president Gianni Infantino attends the 68th FIFA Congress at the Expocentre in Moscow on June 13, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Mladen ANTONOV
FIFA chief Gianni Infantino said on Wednesday he will stand for re-election as the head of football’s world governing body next year.
Infantino said earlier that FIFA had been “clinically dead” when he took over in 2016 from long-time president Sepp Blatter who was engulfed by corruption allegations.
Two years later, it was “very much alive” and full of “joy”, with a clear vision for its future, Infantino said in remarks to the FIFA Congress in Moscow on the eve of the opening match of the 2018 World Cup.
Infantino’s announcement was widely expected.
Blatter is being investigated by Swiss prosecutors for alleged corruption during his 17-year reign at the head of FIFA.
Elections that handed the World Cup to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022 have since been the target of allegations of bribery, and hastened the end of Blatter’s time in office. He continues to protest his innocence.
Infantino has put FIFA on a sound financial footing and made efforts to address allegations that FIFA had become riddled with corruption and its senior officials open to bribes.
The 48-year-old Swiss has also ushered in the introduction of innovations such as the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system to analyse controversial on-pitch incidents during matches.
VAR will make its World Cup debut in Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Infantino in a short speech to the FIFA Congress.
“We know that Infantino became the head of FIFA in difficult times but he has steered it well, like a true fighter,” Putin said.
Infantino, the former secretary general of football’s European governing body UEFA, was little known before he took over sport’s richest governing body.
It is thought he strongly backed the joint bid by the United States, Mexico and Canada host the 2026 World Cup, which easily beat Morocco in a vote of FIFA nations on Wednesday.
That was a case of returning the favour — the three winning countries had given Infantino support in his bid to succeed Blatter.
The choice of the 2026 host nation was made by 203 member countries after the rules were changed to widen the voting college following the controversial victories of Russia and Qatar.
Those decisions were made by the 24-member FIFA Executive Committee, several members of which have been convicted on corruption charges.