Gianni Infantino has launched a scathing attack against FIFA’s former auditing and compliance chief Domenico Scala and labelled speculation over his own position as president as a witch hunt.
Infantino brought up 100 days in the post on Sunday amid growing criticism of his fledgling reign in charge of world football’s scandal-ridden governing body.
Scala resigned last month in protest against reforms announced at the FIFA Congress that he felt empowered the FIFA Council at the expense of the organisation’s independent committees.
FIFA moved to defuse allegations made by Die Welt this week that Infantino instructed the audio recording of a meeting during the Mexico City summit to be deleted, claiming sensitive information included “a conspiracy to oust” Scala.
Die Welt reported Infantino was facing a provisional 90-day suspension, while fellow German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung ran a string of allegations from leaked documents it detailed – including an accusation that Infantino described a two million Swiss francs annual salary offer as an “insult”.
The 46-year-old Swiss gave both publications the short shrift in an interview with newspaper Le Matin in his homeland but first turned his fire on Scala, whose manner of resignation and footballing knowledge he called into question.
“I found out [about Scala’s resignation] the same way everybody else did, when I got off the plane on returning from Mexico,” he said. “Incidentally we were on the same flight.
“I think it would have been a bit classier if he had informed me beforehand. However, he was clearly rather proud of his dramatic little stunt.
“This is childish stuff that belongs in the playground. I don’t want to attach any more importance to it.
“In terms of the way he has gone about things, I feel like the victim of a witch hunt. It is purely malicious conjecture and speculation.
“Neither the FIFA president, nor members of the council have influence or will influence the work of the independent committees.
“Scala is also mistaken in his analysis. He thinks that football is run according to the same management principles as a pharmaceutical company or a pesticide manufacturer.
“This is a major misconception, as he underestimates the passion at play in football and its geopolitical dimension.
“But it is also true that Mr Scala’s discovery of football was both sudden and recent, so for this reason I forgive his gaps in knowledge and errors of judgement.”
After a week where, lawyers conducting an internal investigation at world football’s governing body claimed that ex-president Sepp Blatter and fellow disgraced former officials Jerome Valcke and Markus Kattner benefitted improperly from bonuses totalling 79million Swiss francs, Infantino declined to reveal the details of his own contract while it remains under negotiation.
But he rejected the allegations of impropriety and greed levelled against him.
“First, I want to know how the minutes and audio Council meetings can be found in newspapers,” he said. “I have an idea. Besides, I reserve the right to file a complaint to sensitive data theft.
“Then, still in a desire to harm me, we go out of context on sentences.
“Maybe some seek to discourage me. But they must know that they only reinforce my determination and my will to fight for the good of football. That’s why I was elected.”
On the reported prospect of him being suspended, Infantino added: “My suspension has already been announced, to much fanfare, before a formal enquiry has even been opened.
“All I can say is that I am completely calm and that I am as steadfast as the mountains of my native Valais.”