[dropcap]F[/dropcap]or all the positives aspects of football, both on and off the pitch, the major negative in recent years attached to the world’s most popular sport has undoubtedly been the controversy surrounding governing body FIFA.
The last number of years have seen the organisation’s credibility shattered, sponsors walk away to avoid association and a global feeling that the most powerful men behind the running of football simply cannot be trusted.
The multiple arrests late last year added to the furore, with the somewhat inevitable indictment of contentious former president Sepp Blatter the crescendo to an acrimonious period for the sport.
The long-serving Swiss executive was largely seen as the posterboy for the corruption that has blighted FIFA, even before the evidence finally stacked up, and his removal was a complete pre-requisite for a clean slate.
Michel Platini, UEFA’s equivalent, a fabulous former player and the man hotly tipped to replace Blatter, was also brought down in the bribery scandals.
Crucially, while North and South American football executives were being incriminated on a frequent basis, Europe’s involvement in the sculduggery was minimal – but this changed when the Frenchman was tied up in the controversy – showing that greed and wrongdoing was not isolated to specific continents.
At yesterday’s long-winded and laborious presidential election, Gianni Infantino was crowned as FIFA’s new supremo and the man charged with the unenviable task of restoring faith in a body that has become a laughing stock.
Of the five candidates presented, South African Tokyo Sexwale had the smallest link to those previously running the game but bafflingly stood down in his pre-election speech.
The other four have been in involved in football for some time at continental or global level and the worry remains that the blight of corruption has not been fully removed from the organisation; like a dormant villain ready to rear its ugly head again at an inopportune moment.
Although this in no way indicates any wrongdoing by the 45-year-old due to the association, the Swiss lawyer’s appointment is not a complete clean break from the former establishment.
Born just six miles from Blatter, Infantino won the election largely due to a manifesto that appealed to the smaller members of FIFA.
His pledge to increase funding to the poorer nations and expand the World Cup to 40 teams will have carried weight with plenty of nations looking to further their own agendas.
Reforms have also been passed in an attempt to add transparency to FIFA processes and avoid widespread corruption happening again in the future.
But, realistically speaking, the process to restore any faith in FIFA is going to take a sizeable amount of time and for things to change dramatically.
Infantino will be the new figurehead of the organisation, with he and the new executive committee needing to prove their intentions are honourable and deliver quantifiable positive things over the next five years.
It may well be that the offences perpetrated by previous heavy hitters will have corruption and FIFA spoken of in the same breath from now on and for an indefinite period of time.
Infantino appears to be fighting a losing battle before he has even assumed his new role, with the only immediately apparent solitude the fact that he and those around him can’t be any more treacherous or scandalous than those that preceded them.
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