Volunteers at the launch in Moscow today (Russia 2018)

(WFI) The 2018 World Cup volunteer program launch in Moscow today provided welcome respite for FIFA president Gianni Infantino in the wake of allegations he plotted to sack audit and compliance chief Domenico Scala over an “insulting” salary offer.

German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published a report based on a leaked recording of a FIFA Council meeting held before the congress in Mexico City last month. Infantino allegedly tries to oust Scala, who was involved in discussions about offering the FIFA chief a $2 million salary.

Infantino’s disgraced predecessor Sepp Blatter was reportedly paid $3 million in 2015 before bonuses.

“I didn’t sign a contract that was proposed to me by the chairman of the Audit and Compliance committee. I did not accept this proposal. It was a proposal which I found insulting,” Infantino told the council meeting, according to transcripts of discussions in the German newspaper.

“We see if it’s possible for him to step down. If he doesn’t we will the delegates ask for this question to pass by the congress. The congress should decide, it is a democratic decision.”

Scala quit FIFA a day after the May 13 congress, citing problems with FIFA’s governance reforms and fight against corruption.

Infantino joined Russian president Vladimir Putin to launch the volunteer program for the World Cup and 2017 Confederations Cup. Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko and Russia 2018 CEO Alexei Sorokin were among a host of dignitaries in attendance at the ceremony.

Around 15,000 volunteers will work at the World Cup to be staged in 11 host cities. Five thousand volunteers will be recruited for next year’s FIFA Confederations Cup.

Amid various delays surrounding the 12 stadiums for the tournament, Putin promised they will all be finished on time.

On his second visit to the 2018 World Cup host since he was elected FIFA president, Infantino said the “world will witness a welcoming Russia… a Russia that is open to the world” at the 32-team competition, according to the Associated Press.

He said FIFA’s newly appointed secretary general Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura would probably make her first official visit to Russia in July.

On Monday, Samoura visited FIFA headquarters in Zurich for the first time since her appointment two weeks ago. She held meetings with FIFA’s top brass including Infantino and later addressed the FIFA staff. She officially takes up the position on June 20.

In her speech, the first woman to hold the position at FIFA gave a glimpse of her leadership style. She announced that FIFA’s legal director Marco Villiger and former Croatian international Zvonimir Boban would be her deputy secretaries general.

She said Villiger will be responsible for commercial operations “to generate financial returns and operating the administrative work that comes along with it”.

Boban, will be in charge of the “football pillar”, she added, “focused on developing football and organising competitions”. This effectively makes him responsible for delivering the Russia and Qatar World Cups, a job Jerome Valcke once did until he was sacked by FIFA and later banned for 12 years.

FIFA last week fired Markus Kattner as deputy secretary general following an internal investigation which uncovered financial ethics breaches linked to his employment contact.

The former United Nations official from Senegal told FIFA staff she was focused on the package of reforms approved by the FIFA Congress in February and to restoring public trust in the scandal-hit federation.

“It is my goal to keep on putting the reforms into action and to help FIFA in its process of being recognised as an institution that is run under the principles of good governance, and one that people may be proud of,” Samoura said. 

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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