Friday 20 April 2018

'We can do a lot with very little'- New FIFA president Gianni Infantino promises to develop football

Newly elected FIFA president Gianni Infantino. Photo: AP
Newly elected FIFA president Gianni Infantino. Photo: AP

Jim van Wijk

New FIFA president Gianni Infantino has promised the governing body can "do a lot with actually very little" to help develop the game around the world.

Infantino was elected as Sepp Blatter's successor on Friday and this week started his new job at FIFA headquarters in Zurich aiming to rebuild the reputation of an organisation tarnished by corruption scandals.

The Swiss former UEFA general secretary has plenty of issues to tackle as he completes the four-year term for which Blatter was elected last May - most notably the bidding contest for the 2026 World Cup as well pressing through a series of reforms passed at the extraordinary congress.

Infantino, though, believes FIFA's fundamental goal must always remain to help develop the sport at grassroots among all members associations, each with their own "tailor-made programmes".

"I have been travelling a lot, visiting each continent and many countries. I have seen with my eyes what the needs are. I think we can do, and we have to do, a lot - and we can do a lot with actually very little," Infantino said to FIFA TV.

"We have to make sure we target each of the 209 FIFA member associations specifically and we help them develop in football in accordance with the needs they have. And if we do this, we would make a big, big difference in football development all over the world."

As part of a wide-ranging interview with the in-house FIFA media channel following his first day at the office, Infantino also addressed the issues of technology in football as well as the need to improve relationships with fans. Infantino remains keen for FIFA follow the lead of the European Championships in expanding the qualification places on offer for the World Cup.

"It is not a secret that I believe in an increase of the teams for the World Cup to 40 teams. This would mean eight teams, but also mean more representation," Infantino said

"Forty teams is only 19% of the FIFA membership, it is not so much when you compare to the continental confederation final tournaments, which are between 30 and 100% of the teams participating.

"We would give eight more countries chance to participate, but many more teams the possibilities to dream to participate, to play the qualifiers in a very solid way."

Infantino believes there is merit in following the lead of UEFA to investigate how video replays could help officials without impacting on the "flow of the game".

He said: "Football is a special game, it is the most beautiful sport and most important sport in the world, and we don't have to kill football.

"One of the peculiar peculiarities of football is the flow of the game, it does not stop like many other sports where you have the time to look at video and these kind of things.

"In football you have a flow, you have a referee who takes important decisions so we need to see what kind of impact any technological help will have on the flow of the game.

"If the flow of the game is guaranteed, then I think we need to see how technology can help the game, but we need to start to do serious tests I think sooner rather than later."

Infantino also vowed to help bring fans back to feeling an integral part of the game. "I am like them, I am a supporter. I know what it is like to travel many miles to watch your team, because I have done it myself," the 45-year-old said. "We have to listen to them and what they say because football without the fans is nothing.

"We need the players and the fans, I think these two elements have been neglected for too long and now it is time to change this to bring them in time to involve them in all that we do."

Infantino added: "On our side of the game, we need to become a little bit more fans and a little bit less politicians. If we remember that all of us at the origin are all football fans, then I think the game will become much much better."

Press Association

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport