Infantino outlines his FIFA vision at Wembley Stadium (All photos: Getty)

(WFI) Gianni Infantino revealed that he might appoint an African to be his secretary general if he wins the Feb 26 election.

Speaking at Wembley Stadium on Monday, where he unveiled his action plan for his first 90 days in office if chosen as Sepp Blatter’s successor, Infantino made a clear appeal to the African continent – key in this election race.

“What we want to do is open the doors of the FIFA administration to the most able people around the world. I am convinced the general secretary of FIFA should not be an European. Why not an African?,” he said a press conference.

The UEFA general secretary has much of Europe behind him; in total his FIFA bid has been endorsed by over two dozen of FIFA’s 209 members federations including CONMEBOL. The Italian FA publicly backed him on Tuesday. But verbal support is one thing, a cross on the ballot box quite another.

Infantino knows securing support from Africa’s 54 federations is key to unlocking the doors to FIFA headquarters in Zurich. His comments about Africa appeared to be a clever strategic tactic ahead of his trip to the continent this week where he will lobby for votes at a Confederation of African Football meeting in Kigali on Friday. His rivals Jerome Champagne, Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein, Sheikh Salman Ebrahim Al Khalifa and Tokyo Sexwale are expected to be there too.

Infantino also promises to appoint more women to top positions at FIFA, which is reeling from eight-year bans handed down to Blatter and former UEFA chief Michel Platini and the ongoing fallout from the biggest corruption scandal in FIFA’s history.

“I think FIFA as a worldwide organisation has to be inclusive, has to have more women, has to have people from all over the world in administration that are not only good executives in Switzerland or Germany or France,” he told AFP.

The 45-year-old ruled out any deal with the frontrunner in the FIFA race, Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman. “No, definitely not. I take this very, very seriously,” he was quoted by the news agency. If I’m not elected, there are no deals to be made or being made,” he was quoted by the French news agency.

Football luminaries including Jose Mourinho, Fabio Capello and Luis Figo showed their support for his campaign by attending the campaign event at Wembley.

Oddly, Infantino didn’t take the opportunity to criticize Blatter, whose 18-year FIFA tenure was dogged by scandal. And he didn’t rule out naming the 79-year-old as an honorary FIFA president.

Under his Taking FIFA Forward campaign slogan, Infantino detailed an 11-point plan to clean-up the corruption-scarred world football federation in his first three months.

As well as implementing good governance and compliance reforms recommended by the FIFA Reform Committee, one key initiative will be launching the revamped bidding process for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. It follows the botched parallel bid race for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments that was tarnished by corruption and bribery.

In his first 90 days, Infantino also vows to: plan strategy meetings with member associations in the autumn; consult with key sponsors to bring trust back to the market; set up new football development regulations; place a renewed focus on tailor-made national and regional projects to assist associations; and create a Legends Team to promote the social impact of football globally.

He pointed to a question mark on a screen to indicate that his final point would be unveiled at FIFA Congress in three weeks.
“For too long the scandal and corruption that has engulfed FIFA has taken centre-stage and I believe my proposals will help put football back in the spotlight where it belongs, » he said of his proposals.

« I will continue to work tirelessly to restore trust in FIFA and create a trustworthy governing body that governs, grows and nurtures the game in a responsible and accountable way. Together we can take FIFA Forward.”

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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