ZURICH: FIFA President Gianni Infantino is set to serve four more years as the leader of football’s governing body as the only candidate for election.
The 48-year-old had the required nomination letters from five of the 211 member federations when the deadline passed at midnight Tuesday in Zurich, FIFA said on Wednesday.
Infantino must now pass the formality of eligibility and integrity checks for the election on June 5 in Paris ahead of the women’s World Cup.
Former Tottenham Hotspur defender Ramon Vega had announced his intention to stand against Infantino, but failed to garner the required support of five member federations.
“Following the call for election issued by the FIFA Council on 10 June 2018, FIFA’s member associations have proposed, in due time and form, the following candidate for the presidential election to take place at the 69th FIFA Congress in Paris on 5 June 2019: Mr Gianni Infantino,” it said in a statement.
The Swiss lawyer has been widely expected to win unopposed with support already pledged by most FIFA members, including through their continental governing bodies such as North America’s CONCACAF and South America’s CONMEBOL.
Since being elected in February 2016, Infantino oversaw expanding the World Cup to 48 teams in 2026, and picking the United States, Canada and Mexico to co-host it.
He is completing the term of Sepp Blatter, who announced his resignation plan days after American and Swiss prosecutors revealed sweeping investigations of corruption in football in May 2015. Blatter was later banned by the FIFA ethics committee for financial irregularities along with Michel Platini, Infantino’s former boss at UEFA.
Infantino, the former UEFA General Secretary, beat Asian Football Confederation President Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain in the final round of the 2016 election after Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein and Frenchman Jerome Champagne had been eliminated.
The main event of Infantino’s first full mandate is the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
FIFA is still studying if that tournament being played for the first time in November and December could also be expanded to 48 teams. It would require Qatar agreeing to share hosting duties with regional neighbours because the gas-rich emirate does not have stadiums and infrastructure to cope with the extra games and teams.
Infantino has acknowledged the 2022 tournament is unlikely to be changed amid the region’s current diplomatic tensions. A decision could be taken by the FIFA Council in Miami next month to honour Qatar’s original hosting plan.
Infantino’s plans for a new expanded Club World Cup and a global Nations League tournament have put him at loggerheads with European confederation UEFA and club organisations.
However, no candidate from Europe emerged to challenge.
UEFA will hold their own elections at their congress in Rome on Thursday where incumbent, Slovenian lawyer, Aleksander Ceferin is unopposed.
Published in Dawn, February 7th, 2019