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Saturday 10 December 2016

New leader Infantino vows to re-unite FIFA

Gianni Infantino. Photo: AP
Gianni Infantino. Photo: AP

Gianni Infantino vowed to reunite football and focus on developing the game instead of politics after being chosen as FIFA's ninth president.

The FIFA election entered a second round of voting for the first time in 42 years after Infantino of Switzerland secured more backing than many people's favourite favourite Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al Khalifa of Bahrain in the first round.

Initially a two-thirds majority was required to win, but a simple majority of more than 50 per cent - 104 votes - was sufficient for victory in the second round at the world governing body's extraordinary congress in Zurich.

And Infantino secured 115 votes to Sheikh Salman's 88 to become the second successive Swiss president, after Sepp Blatter.

The 45-year-old lawyer is from Brig in the Valais region of Switzerland, less than six miles from Blatter's hometown of Visp.

Prince Ali bin al Hussein had 27 votes in the first round and four in the second, while Jerome Champagne had seven and then zero as Infantino secured the additional votes required to become FIFA's first new president since 1998.

Prince Ali backers turned to Infantino, who also profited from a split vote from African associations, which had 54 votes. Infantino said: "I don't agree that football is divided. Today it was an election, but not a war. It was a competition, but not a fight. It was a sporting contest. An election you win, you lose and then life goes on.

"I count very much on Africa as I count very much on Asia, and on Oceania and on North, Central, South America as well to work together.

"The election's taken place, I've been elected, now we turn the page, we start to work, we work good together and I show the whole world I'm not a candidate of Europe or wherever. I'm a candidate of football and football is universal.

"This is what we'll start to do now in FIFA: to work with everyone for the development of football and not to do politics, to speak about divisions, to speak about barriers.

"I said today we have to build bridges, not to build walls. Football can certainly do that."

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