Perhaps the key to understanding – or explaining – the unanimous vote that Gianni Infantino received at the 73rd FIFA Congress is the languages in which he thanked and used his re-election and new mandate until 2027. The Italian-Swiss spoke in English, French, German and english, almost a synthesis of how he has been managing since he took over as head of FIFA, a multinational of often unimaginable scope.
In Kigali, the capital of Rwanda – a poor country that surrounded the luxury set up by FIFA for its Congress and the various councils and meetings – there were 211 congressmen who voted for Infantino. 211 votes. A real and absolute power.
Infantino’s speech focused on the development of football at all levels and on all continents, and above all on a historic collection that he promised to continue increasing. “Revenues increased to a record $7.5 billion through 2022 in a period affected by covid-19. When I arrived, FIFA’s reserves were around one billion dollars, today they are almost four billion, ”he specified.
That he chose to show the numbers was not accidental: since he came to FIFA after the corruption scandals that ejected Sepp Blatter and his entire power scheme, Infantino has emphasized the transparency of his management. In Kigali, he even acknowledged that he is studying setting salary caps to avoid the financial collapse of clubs and avoidance of all kinds. “It may be necessary to introduce a cap, we have to think how we can do it. We will study it with all the desired parts and see what we can do,” he said.
By mayor. Emboldened by the economic and sporting success of the recent World Cup in Qatar that the Argentine team won, Infantino’s greatest triumph was not his re-election on Thursday, something that was already sung, but imposing on Tuesday, in the FIFA Council, its expansion project to 48 participants for the 2026 edition that will be held in Canada, the United States and Mexico.
Shrewd, the greatest manager in international football knew how to balance between promising and still not disappointing. Just as the support of Conmebol is based on the joint candidacy of Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Paraguay for the 2030 World Cup, the support of UEFA, but above all of the African Football Confederation, is due to the candidacy, also for 2030. from Spain, Portugal and Morocco.
The election will be in 2024, and it is likely that one or more countries will move away from the Italian-Swiss in the face of a defeat: no one can please everyone, although Infantino has already distinguished what he wanted most: to get the votes that support his management and mandate.
The expertise to conform to one or more sides of the re-elected FIFA president also has its correlate in the Argentine chapter: Infantino added Mauricio Macri as president of the FIFA Foundation and exacerbates their relationship, at the same time that he embraces one of his confessed adversaries in the baseball world, the empowered president of the AFA, Claudio Tapia.
Macri already told Infantino, in a meeting they held last year, his plan for Argentine soccer if in 2023 he or someone from his political force wins the elections in the country again: disembark at the AFA building that he has observed with some disdain for decades and to achieve the old wish of incorporating sports limited companies as a management alternative.
Tapia already knows these details, but he aspires to strengthen himself as he has been doing since La Scaloneta shielded him from destabilization. El Chiqui arrived in Kigali this week accompanied by the presidents of Racing, Víctor Blanco, and Huracán, David Garzón; and he acquired centrality for what it now implies for Conmebol and FIFA: in that TEG where tensions are settled and lobbying is done to advance agreements, a world champion president knows that he is worth more.
The FIFA Council presented on Tuesday the new format for the 2026 World Cup, which will have 48 teams divided into twelve groups, and will have a total of 104 matches over the forty days. The first two per group will be classified, in addition to the eight best third parties.
The 32 selected who advance will start the 16th. The champion will play eight games.
In addition, the other change is the Club World Cup: from 2025 it will be made up of twelve UEFA teams, six from Conmebol, four from Asia, Concacaf and Africa, one from Oceania and another from the host country.
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