Gianni Infantino patiently awaits the results from the 1st round of voting. (FIFA)

(WFI) FIFA elects Gianni Infantino to replace disgraced president Sepp Blatter in an unexpected turn of events.

UEFA secretary general Infantino defeated frontrunner Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, former FIFA vice president Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan and former FIFA executive Jerome Champagne. South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale pulled out of the race after delivering a 13-minute speech to the FIFA Congress preceding the vote.

The 45-year-old will serve out the remaining mandate of Blatter – three years and a few months – with the next election scheduled in 2019.

Infantino was lost for words when the election result was announced. “I cannot express my feelings in this moment. I went through an exceptional journey, a journey which made me meet many fantastic people who love, live and breathe football and many people that deserve that FIFA is highly respected,” he said, struggling to keep his emotions in check.

“We will restore the image and respect of FIFA. We have to be proud of FIFA and everyone has to be proud of what we will do together.”

Saying that the election, featuring five candidates, was “a great sign of democracy in FIFA”, he pledged to unite the FIFA family: “I want to be the president of all of you, all 209 associations.

“Those times of crisis are over, we need to implement reforms and good governance and transparency but also need to have respect. We are going to win back this respect through hard work and commitment to finally focus on this wonderfdul beautiful game that is football,” he added.

Infantino led all candidates with 88 votes after one round of voting, shocking Sheikh Salman who garnered 85. Since neither reached the required 138 votes to win in the first round, the election moved to a second ballot with 104 votes the required total to win.

Despite Prince Ali and Champagne only managing 27 and seven votes respectively, both contenders opted to stay in the race for the second round. Infantino expanded his lead in the second round, earning 115 votes to win the presidency. Sheikh Salman only earned three more votes in the second round to bring his total to 88.

At his victory press conference, Infantino said: “We enter now into a new era. It was an important congress where some groundbreaking reforms have been approved and a president elected who certainly can and will implement all of these reforms in order to make sure the image and reputation of FIFA comes back to where it belongs.

“We will work tirelessly to make sure we bring football back to FIFA and FIFA back to football.”

Prior to the election, FIFA’s member associations approved a sweeping range of reforms by a vote of 179 to 22.  The reforms are aimed at cleaning up an organization that has been plagued by corruption over the years.

By INSIDER Kevin Nutley

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