Despite his candidate not receiving the final nod, U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati praised the newly elected FIFA president as a man “committed to reform.”
In the first round of votes Gulati didn’t support the new chief of the international soccer’s governing body, but he soon switched his vote to favor the winner. Gianni Infantino won in a 115 – 88 vote over presumed favorite Sheikh Salman al-Khalifa on Friday. Infantino replaces the scandal plagued Sepp Blatter who was suspended by FIFA after five terms as the organization’s top man.
Even though he didn’t support him initially the U.S. soccer chief said he feels the 45-year-old lawyer from Switzerland will prove a good choice.
Gulati said he has known Infantino for a long time and noted the newly elected leader has all the requisite skills. “He knows the soccer side of things, he knows the business side of things, he obviously showed off his linguistic abilities today and he’s a good man,” Gulati told ESPN.
The U.S. chief also said the new FIFA president understands soccer in the U.S.
“He understands the U.S. market as well, and how important the U.S. market could be not only for FIFA but how important it could be the sport, more broadly speaking,” Gulati said.
While noting that Infantino’s hometown in Switzerland is only six miles from his own, Gulati insisted the newly elected president will bring reform to the troubled sport and is committed to creating a “new FIFA.”
“The organization has to be different. The temperament has to be different. The attitude at the top has to be different. I have no doubt you’re going to see that,” the U.S. soccer chief said.
“It’ll take time, it won’t happen overnight, and the reputation of FIFA won’t be regained overnight. But I think he’s the right guy to get that done,” Gulati concluded.
It will be a tough battle to bring back respectability to FIFA. Former FIFA chief Blatter was the subject of a criminal investigation by Swiss prosecutors over a Caribbean World Cup TV rights contract he signed, and a 2011 payment of two million francs to UEFA chief Michel Platini, whose status the Swiss attorney general has described as being between a witness and an accused person.
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