LAUSANNE, February 22 – A leading candidate in Friday’s election to replace Sepp Blatter as FIFA’s president said this week is the “most signficant” in the 112-year history of world football’s governing body.
Gianni Infantino, the acting head of European football, made the comments in a statement on Monday, five days before the vote that experts say could determine whether FIFA emerges from months of unprecedented scandal to restore its battered reputation.
“This coming week is the most significant in FIFA’s 112-year history,” said Infantino, the secretary general of the European confederation UEFA.
“The 209 (FIFA) Member Associations have the ability to define not just their own destiny, but also that of FIFA and global football,” the Swiss-Italian national further said.
While the race remains unpredictable, Infantino is widely seen as a front-runner after winning the endorsements from the executive committees of UEFA and the South American confederation (CONMEBOL).
Some odds makers have put Bahrainian royal Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa as the favourite, after he won the backing from the Asian confederation he leads and from Africa’s top football management.
With dozens of football executives facing graft allegations, Infantino stressed that this week was “truly a crossroads moment for FIFA.”
“By the end of this week we will know whether FIFA has taken a full step towards reform, greater transparency and a new era for the world’s most played and watched sport,” Infantino said, asserting that he was the best candidate to lead the reform drive.
“A huge amount is at stake,” he added.
Former FIFA deputy secretary general Jerome Champagne of France, and Jordan’s Prince Ali bin al Hussein, an ex-FIFA executive committee member are also contesting, along with South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale, who is now considered a fringe candidate.