New FIFA boss kicks off first day at the office

by

March 01, 2016
New FIFA president Swiss Gianni Infantino (left) taking a shot to goal during a friendly football match at the home of FIFA in Zurich, Switzerland yesterday.

ZURICH (AP):

Elected to lead FIFA into a new era, President Gianni Infantino spent his first day at the office in fluorescent green football boots yesterday.

Infantino kept a campaign promise by hosting a football match next to FIFA's $250 million headquarters for staff and several greats of his generation.

Another pledge he plans to fulfil within 90 days is starting the 2026 World Cup bidding contest, likely to include the United States, Canada and Mexico.

"It is fairly urgent," Infantino said, about a contest FIFA stalled after US and Swiss federal corruption investigations hit nine months ago. "Definitely, I think we need to launch the bidding process in the next couple of months, probably before the congress in May."

First, there was football to play, alongside stars like 2006 World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro and Luis Figo, both former FIFA world players of the year.

Just ahead of kick off, Infantino was greeted by Sheikh Salman of Bahrain, the pre-election favourite who he beat on Friday for a stunning victory.

Infantino then got down to business for two 25-minute matches in chilly rain and fog that offered an obvious punchline at a FIFA which must persuade sceptics that it wants to be transparent.

"A great day," Infantino said later. "The hard work starts now, we are ready for that."

His working day began with his former staff at European football body, UEFA, where Infantino was the CEO-like general secretary since 2009. He gave a farewell speech in the UEFA auditorium about three hours' drive away at Nyon, Switzerland.

On Friday, FIFA's acting secretary general Markus Kattner told election delegates in a speech of "general uncertainty that is affecting morale of the FIFA team."

"What I will tell the FIFA staff I will tell the FIFA staff, not you," Infantino quipped to reporters gathered in a post-match media mixed zone, while dressed in a FIFA-logo track top and shorts.

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