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A STERN TEST FOR GIANNI INFANTINO

Before now, many followers of the game of football wouldn’t have believed that administering the game globally lies in the hands of an exclusive few.

But the emergence of Swiss – Italian football administrator into the contest for FIFA presidency in 2015 changed the entire dynamics of politics in FIFA – global football highest decision making body. The Swiss – Italian whose real name is Giovanni Vincenzo Infantino was one of the underdogs going into the contest, but for corruption charges that was brought against then UEFA President Mitchel Platini (who was primed to succeed Sepp Blatter), then, he would have been floored in the contest effortlessly by the former UEFA boss.

Mitchel Platini

Nevertheless, the emergence of Infantino as FIFA high chief barely two years ago has ushered in a transparent and new style of leadership.  There is sense of direction in the once maligned and beleaguered global football body. Though, Mr. Infantino was not initially primed and positioned for the top job, but events and build up to the election and subsequent emergence of Infantino as new FIFA president on 26th February, 2016 suggest that high level politicking and agitation for new set of leadership threw Blatter out of office ingloriously without recourse to all the innovations he’d brought into FIFA.

Blatter’s reign was littered with litany of bribery and corrupt practices. The organization was indeed smeared with all sorts of accusations, criticisms and allegations with particular emphasis on money exchanging hands for award of world cup hosting right, dubious inflation of FIFA projects and other negative vices that further plundered the image of the global football body into a state of despoliation.

 Blatter’s woes were further compounded following his inordinate intention to perpetuate himself in office by seeking for re-election. In fact, his opponents and antagonists were armed with sufficient information and weighty allegations that were incredibly enough to nail and stop him from his self- succession bid.

Well, in a face saving mission to retract his footsteps, he reluctantly withdrew from the FIFA contest amid series of allegations. His anointed protégé, Mitchel Platini ran into a brick wall and heavily fortified armory whose brave soldiers relish the rare chance to have him and Blatter captured cheaply, with substantive evidences that eventually axed and send them packing.

There is no doubt that Blatter worked tirelessly to bring FIFA to where it is today, but, his insatiable hunger and crave for power brought him down, and this ingloriously and infamously ended his illustrious career as a football administrator. He should have exited office when the ovation was loud.

Sepp Blatter

Furthermore, this piece is not to eulogize the qualities and legendary landmark achievements of Sepp Blatter while in office. It is strategically aimed at reminding the incumbent president of FIFA, Mr. Giovanni Vincenzo Infantino that he has to build and consolidate on the legacy of his predecessor, Sepp Blatter who succeeded late Jao Havalenge in 1998.

With a net worth of about $1.52 Billion, FIFA is one of the most financially stabled organizations in the world. All the same, Infantino has done well in re-organizing FIFA secretariat in Zurich by axing all the supposedly loyal lieutenants and officers left behind by the deposed Sepp Blatter.  He has further showed bravery by taking his cleansing exercise to continental level. It is no secret that the football administrator played a pivotal and tactical role that eventually ended the despotic reign of Issah Hayatou who had been at helm of CAF as president close to 30 years. The incumbent CAF president Ahmad Ahmad, Asia Football Confederation president Salman Bin Al-Khalifa, CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominquez, and other continental chiefs are all apostles of Infantino’s kitchen cabinet.

Infantino has continued to mend fences and restructure FIFA. Respect and honor that once eluded the organization during the Scandals infested reign of Sepp Blatter has gradually find its way back. Sponsors and Partners have reinvested their trust and resources. The tempestuous reign of Blatter has been confined to history, and Infantino has steadied a sinking ship whose modus operandi was shrouded in secrecy and blighted with all manner of corrupt practices.

While football enthusiasts continue to monitor and critically evaluate the performance of Infantino,  a stern test therefore awaits the FIFA high buff that will be over seeing his first FIFA senior world cup as  president in the 2018 World cup in Russia.

There is no doubting the fact that, that most of the resources, assets and finances of FIFA were generated by Sepp Blatter. The deposed former president of FIFA should be credited for making the football governing body financially solvent. He master minded and instituted a fantastic commercial mechanism in getting enormous returns on FIFA’s investment at the end of every world cup whilst in office.

Similarly, while he has successfully laundered the image of FIFA, Infantino should take a cue from Blatter by also striving to make the global football body to stay afloat financially by instituting attractive commercial platforms that will attract more sponsors and investors. As a shrewd, astute and ebullient football administrator who is characteristically brave in taking decisions, the onus is on him to break new frontiers in advertising, branding, and endorsement and so on- which may rake in millions into FIFA’s coffers at the end of the Russia 2018 world cup and subsequent world cups.

By and large, the administration of FIFA under the stewardship of Infantino is bound to reap unprecedented dividends in the years ahead. Indeed, the FIFA supremo is been surrounded by immensely gifted and highly talented football technocrats both at its headquarters in Zurich, and at continental level. Changes has been made and introduced to help improve the game. And one of such changes is the introduction of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) at this summer’s world cup to help reduce the incidence of controversial officiating, wrong calls, complaints and queries by fans and team officials occasioned by bad refereeing decisions-as witnessed in previous world cup finals.

More so, another stern test before infantino is curbing racism in football. Racism is indeed a monster that can actually destroy and ruin the game of football if modalities to check mate its excesses are not put in place.

As I stated in my last blog post, football and this summer’s world cup will be played at a country where racism is idolized, and it’s a norm. There is no contemporary history or empirical proof that the Russian State has done enough to purge racism from its body polity.

And so in a bid to deliberately and continuously combat racism, and, make the Russia 2018 world cup a safe haven for tourist and fans, Gianni Infantino and his FIFA team have to up the ante by ensuring that no stone will be left unturned by FIFA security network and local organizing committee of the 2018 World Cup, such that the incidence of racism is controlled and ameliorated.

Interestingly, one of the parameters or indexes that will be used to assess infantino’s tenure will be based on his uncanny ability to successfully oversee the Russia 2018 World cup without the attendant, and highly anticipated cases of racism.

In fact, in all honesty, these aforementioned instances are stern and stiff test that could actually mar or break his re-election bid depending on how he fare in his first world cup assignment as FIFA president.

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