Gianni Infantino was elected president of FIFA on Friday, edging out the favored Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa in two rounds of voting.
Infantino will succeed Sepp Blatter, who had led soccer’s governing body since 1998, but resigned from the role last year – and subsequently received an eight-year ethics ban (later reduced to six years) – in the wake of a massive corruption scandal that shook the sport to its core. The 45-year-old Infantino, who, like Blatter, is Swiss, had previously served as general secretary of the Union of European Football Associations, and was originally included on the ballot for FIFA president as a stand-in for UEFA chief Michel Platini, who was barred from running after receiving a controversial payment from Blatter.
Despite his ties to the (now former) FIFA president, Infantino campaigned on a platform of inclusion, promising to share World Cup revenues and expand international tournaments. During a pre-election speech on Friday, he spoke in five different languages, and urged the European soccer federation “to do much more.”
Infantini was named on more ballots than Sheikh Salman during the first round of voting on Friday, but failed to secure the two-thirds of votes required to become president. The presidential election then moved to a second ballot – the first time that has happened since 1974 – where Infantino received 115 out of a possible 207 votes to lock up the nomination. That’s pretty impressive for someone who wasn’t even considered a leading candidate at the beginning of this entire ordeal, and he’s motivated to restore the standing of FIFA.
“I cannot express my feelings in this moment,” Infantino said after being elected. “I told you I went through an exceptional journey, which made me meet many fantastic people, who live and breathe football, and many people deserve to see FIFA is highly respected. Everyone in the world will applaud us for what we will do. Everyone will be proud of what we will do.”
That wasn’t all that was decided on Friday, either – a number of reforms were passed in an attempt to make FIFA more transparent. Among the topics discussed, all salaries will be disclosed on an annual basis moving forward and presidents will now only be eligible to serve three terms of four years.
Despite all that, Infantini didn’t even steal the show. That honor went to another candidate, awesomely named South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale, who prefaced his speech in front of FIFA’s congress by saying he probably wouldn’t win the election. Then, he delighted the group with a PowerPoint presentation and a number of jokes – one of which included a personal soccer team of reforms that operated in a 4-4-2 formation – and concluded his 15-minutes on stage by announcing his withdrawal from the race.
It’s too bad, Sexwale. You seemed fit for the job.