Gianni Infantino was on Friday elected the new president of FIFA after polling the necessary number of votes in the second round.
Infantino sprung a surprise by outstripping favourite Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa in the first round by 88 votes to 85.
In round two, candidates required the approval of 104 FIFA federations in Zurich and Infantino comfortably broke through this barrier, claiming 115, to become the successor to Sepp Blatter.
Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman took 88 votes second time around, with Prince Ali bin al-Hussein and Jerome Champagne taking four and zero respectively. Tokyo Sexwale, the fifth candidate at the start of the day, withdrew prior to the first round.
“Dear friends, I cannot express my feelings in this moment. I told you I went through a journey, an exceptional journey, a journey which made me meet many fantastic people, many people who love, live, breathe football every day,” an emotional Infantino said in his acceptance speech.
“We will restore the image and respect of FIFA. People will applaud us, applaud you for what we will do.
“Everyone has to be proud of what we will do at FIFA. I want to thank you all, all 209 and the other candidates. Tokyo decided four can win, one cannot win. We had a great competition, [a] great sign of democracy in FIFA.
“I want to be president of all 209 [member federations]. I have travelled the globe and I will continue to do this. I want to work with all of you together in order to restore and rebuild a new FIFA where we can put again football at the centre of the stage.”
Multi-lingual Swiss lawyer Infantino began working at UEFA in 2000 and rose to the position of secretary general in 2009, where he served under president Michel Platini.
Platini’s suspension and subsequent ban from all football-related activity in relation to a payment made by FIFA and signed off by the also barred Blatter in 2011 left the European confederation needing a fresh candidate for the election.
They turned to Infantino hours before October’s election deadline and the 45-year-old, who maintained his support for Platini’s attempts to clear his name, garnered the support of major football names such as Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho before, crucially, persuading enough national federations to back his reform manifesto.
Having helped to implement the expansion of the European Championship from a 16- to 24-team national tournament, Infantino’s pre-election pledges include a commitment to increasing the number of countries at the World Cup from 32 to 40.
Acting FIFA president Issa Hayatou praised Infantino and Congress on what he hopes will be a seminal day for the organisation.
The Cameroonian said: “I want to congratulate the new president of FIFA and I wish you all the luck for the new organisation of FIFA.
“I invite all members to join forces behind you and restore all measures necessary to succeed. I want to thank all other candidates for their sportsmanship.
“I know that FIFA will be able to count on your support so that it can move forward in the spirit of unity and emerge from this period.
“I want to thank the general secretary who has supported me during these months, it’s been great working with you.
“To you members of Congress, you have shown a spirit of responsibility by accepting to vote, supporting the reform package as a whole,” he added.
“I think together we can restore trust and confidence so that FIFA that is so dear to us all can move forward together. We must always do all we can to protect spirit of our organisation.”
Infantino’s first term in office will run until 2019.
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