Gianni Infantino has become the most powerful person in world soccer.
Infantino won the race to become FIFA’s new president Friday and succeed ousted longtime leader Sepp Blatter. Infantino, a 45-year-old Swiss-Italian lawyer, won in the second round of voting, defeating challengers Sheikh Salman of Bahrain, Prince Ali of Jordan and Jerome Champagne of France.
Salman was believed to be the favorite coming into the election, and Infantino’s win represents a minor upset.
“I accept the result of this election, thank you,” Infantino told FIFA’s congress in Zurich. “I went through an exceptional journey, met many fantastic people who love football, who breathe football. I want to be the president of all of you, of all 209 nations. I want to work with all of you to work together and build a new era where we can put football at the center of the stage.”
Infantino garnered 115 of the 207 votes in the second round, winning by a simple majority. Salman won 88. Ali took four votes in the decisive round.
Infantino becomes world soccer’s governing body’s ninth president and will serve the rest of the four-year term Blatter was elected to last year before he stepped down and called for a new election amid the FIFA bribery and corruption scandal.
FIFA subsequently banned Blatter for eight years for financial mismanagement, but an appeals committee cut his sanction to six years.
Infantino previously served as UEFA’s Secretary General, a post he assumed in 2009.
This year’s election was the first since 1974 to require a second round of voting. No candidate received the two-thirds majority needed to win in the first round.
Thumbnail photo via Patrick B. Kraemer/Keystone/Associated Press