It’s still early days of course but legitimate questions are starting to be asked about the effect Donald Trump’s US presidency might have on the landscape of world football and specifically two huge issues: the 2026 World Cup and the FifaGate scandal.
By Andrew Warshaw
All the benefits with no negatives. So proclaimed Gianni Infantino immediately after this week’s seismic decision to expand the World Cup to 48 teams. This is not about politics, he said. This is not about money. This is purely about serving football and redressing the game’s imbalances. Does anyone in their right mind really believe that?
Minutes after chairing his first executive committee meeting as the seventh president in UEFA’s 62-year history, a suitably attired Aleksander Ceferin approached a lift on the lower ground floor at the luxury resort complex where the organisation’s top brass had been staying.
Suddenly, strangely, it has all gone quiet. After days and weeks of eager anticipation about whether Gianni Infantino is being investigated for breaking ethics rules, Fifa continues to leave us all on tenterhooks.
When hundreds of television cameras zoomed in on the climax of Euro 2016, capturing Portugal’s elation and France’s despair, one man was conspicuous by his absence – just as he had been throughout the tournament.
Gianni Infantino, less than three months into the job as the man chosen to lead FIFA into a new era of respectability, turned to his fawning converts and declared: “I can officially inform you here, the crisis is over.”
As Europe’s blazered football leaders filed out of Budapest following one of the shortest UEFA congresses on record, how many of them were examining their consciences?
When Sepp Blatter celebrated his 80th birthday this week in the bosom of his ultra-loyal family, perhaps with more than a touch of resentment at seeing his contribution to the game all but ignored during last month’s presidential hand-over, the man who replaced him was just completing his first week in charge.
Fortune favours the brave. Or in Gianni Infantino’s case, being in the right place at the right time.
At the start of the FIFA presidential race, all we heard was the need for a clean campaign, with each candidate energetically promoting his own cause. No finger-pointing, no duplicity, no mud-slinging.
When candidates of opposition political parties in US and British elections, and in many other countries for that matter, want to convince the voting public that they are best person for the job, they frequently go head-to-head on television as an important way of their getting their messages across. So what’s so precious about football?
Sporting traditions are supposed to die hard but not, it seems, when it comes to the FA Cup, football’s oldest – and greatest – domestic knockout competition.
When Sepp Blatter announced a new-look FIFA ethics committee back in March 2012, he did so to weed out corruption within his already tarnished organisation and make sure the cheats never prospered again. Little did he know at the time that he would end up being the committee’s biggest catch.
You can take Thursday’s momentous events on both sides of the Atlantic one of two ways. Either you can argue that on the most eagerly anticipated day in its clean-up process, FIFA had its thunder stolen like never before and the rug humiliatingly yanked from under its feet. Or you can argue that the staggering scale and choking stench of corruption unveiled by US attorney general Loretta Lynch within hours of the game-changing reform measures being announced at FIFA headquarters only served to prove that world football’s governing body is at least looking to the future and acknowledges how desperately it needs a complete overhaul.
The bombshell revelation that Michel Platini – and presumably Sepp Blatter too – faces a possible lifetime ban over “that” payment has crystallised the seriousness of what may or may not have actually been agreed between the pair all those years ago.