Infantino’s re-election: reformer or destroyer of fubball?

Infantino's re-election: reformer or destroyer of fubball?

A gold medal of friendship on a sky-blue ribbon from vladimir putin, a personal letter to brazil’s controversial head of state jair bolsonaro and, of course, an appointment at the elysee palace on the day before his own coronation fair.

As much as gianni infantino wanted to distance himself from joseph blatter on all other levels during his first term as FIFA boss, his proximity to the powerful of this world fascinates the self-proclaimed reformer of world soccer as much as his predecessor, who is mired in the mire of scandal.

"I want to usher in a new era at fifa, one that puts soccer back at the center," infantino promised after his surprise election as fifa president. One of his first acts in office was a celebrity kick with ex-groups around diego maradona. A good three years later, the swiss sees himself on wednesday (09.00 a.M.) at the congress of the 211 members in the austere paris exhibition center at the porte de versailles before his safe re-election, he himself is on the right track, in contrast to his mainly german critics.

But infantino need not fear opposition from the german soccer federation, which has been reduced to a supporting actor by the resignation of former president reinhard grindel. In fact, despite some tensions in the recent past, the DFB presidium even voted for his re-election. It is necessary to be in "a constructive dialogue" with the european football union UEFA and FIFA, he said.

Thus harsh criticism comes only from ex-functionaries. "He has done exactly what i suspected. He’s writing back the reforms so that he can go back to being the omnipotent ruler and not be accountable to anyone and the statutes and regulations can be interpreted the way he needs them to be," former DFB chairman and FIFA official theo zwanziger said in an interview with ARD television.

Infantino’s personnel policy fell victim to the german top lawyer hans-joachim eckert, who was dismissed as FIFA’s highest ethics judge like the swiss chief investigator cornel borbely after investigations were opened against the head of the association because of inconsistencies concerning private flights and salary issues. "There’s no one left to watch infantino’s back," eckert complained.

In addition to zwanziger and eckert, blatter and former UEFA boss michel platini, who is still banned until october and on monday took a pointed shot at his former functionary cog, are also part of the anti-infantino faction. All of them, however, no longer have any factual relevance in the fubball orbit. And within the FIFA apparatus, the 49-year-old no longer has a prominent opponent.

Before resigning in april on grounds of moral turpitude, former DFB boss reinhard grindel also worked intensively as UEFA boss aleksander ceferin’s front man on the swiss’s expansion plans. "It is important that the FIFA president stands for integrity, transparency and compliance," grindel said – and then fell over violations of those very criteria himself. Infantino deliberately refrained from commenting on the resignation of his critic, otherwise he might have made a verbal jab at the unpopular german.

Given infantino’s broad support from asia, africa, and north and south america for a second term until 2023, europeans, skeptical at least for economic self-interest, have little room to maneuver in the soccer power game. If infantino is confirmed in office by acclamation, as expected, they will be deprived of any argumentation in the smoldering battles over new tournament formats and marketing strategies.

"Nobody is perfect," infantino’s canadian deputy victor montagliani replied in paris suffisant to critical questions about his boss’s record. To praise the results in the highest tones immediately afterwards. The 2018 world cup in russia was a great success for FIFA and thus for infantino as well as for russia’s president putin.

The world cup increase from 32 to 48 teams from 2026 onwards – with the premiere in mexico, the USA and canada – was an early declared and quickly implemented goal. The financial figures, which were disastrous after the scandal years, are at least solid again, even if new sponsors tend to be state-owned companies from qatar and china instead of global corporations such as sony and mcdonald’s. Where the money comes from doesn’t matter.

In his closest environment, infantino has placed people who are pleasing to him or do not have a rough radiance. Fatma samoura as the first woman and first african to hold the post of secretary general was a strategic move. She has hardly been able to prove herself as a leader since 2016. Ex-professional zvonimir boban as one of her deputies did not stand out with his own accents yet either. Infantino determines guidelines and their implementation.

Since march 2018, however, by no means everything has gone according to his wishes. With the dubious 25-billion-dollar offer from an unnamed but apparently british-asian consortium with backers in saudi arabia, infantino went over the top. Close ties to the gulf prompt rumors of personal economic interests with rulers there. In any case, the europeans don’t love him the coup out of concern for the marketing of their own competitions.

The club world championship with 24 teams from 2021 onwards will probably come. But format and participants are still unclear. The global nations league is off the table for now. And infantino was also unable to push through the hoped-for increase in the world cup as early as 2022 because of the politically difficult situation in the gulf. Host qatar is at enmity with the saudis it has ensnared.

Eagerly awaited are the electoral gifts infantino will present to the 211 federations on wednesday. In his last election speech in 2016, he convinced the crowd with a million-euro bonus – this was already a popular blatter tactic. The demarcation from his predecessor apparently succeeded only to a limited extent anyway. "It’s just like it used to be with blatter, only now you have to fill out a lot of forms before you get your money," said a functionary from uganda about the FIFA change under infantino.