Today in Zurich, Switzerland, representatives of 207 football nations casted a vote for the new President of FIFA, the world's governing body of football.
They were there to elect a new president to fill the post at an Extraordinary Congress. That person will have the unenviable task to rebuild FIFA's reputation because the organization is going through a transition. It's trying to move forward from the biggest corruption scandal in football history, which happened under the watch of former President Joseph Sepp Blatter. He's dutifully served World Football for years, but despite his past achievements, his legacy is perpetually marred by the fact that he was the man in the driver's seat when corrupt deals were struck by his subordinates.
5 senior football executives started campaigning among the 207 nations. They were Bahraini Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, Swiss National Gianni Infantino, Jordanian Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, Frenchman Jerome Champagne, and South African Tokyo Sexwale. Sexwale dropped out of the race this morning, leaving the other 4 to battle it out.
Now, how it works is that there are 209 Member associations of FIFA, each representing a country. This means that, for this election, small nations such as Belize wield the same voting power as the big countries like Germany, Italy, and Brazil. 2 Nations, Kuwait and Indonesia are currently suspended from FIFA, and so they weren't able to vote today.
This congress meeting went on for 6 hours straight where the 207 country reps cast a vote in secret for the 4 candidates. In the first round, front runners Gianni Infantino and Al Khalifa were ahead of the other 2 aspirants by a huge margin, but Infantino got 3 more votes. In order for Infantino to have been elected at this point, he needed to have won by a two thirds majority, and so, the voting resumed for a second round.
This time around, any of the 4 candidates could have won, but they needed to have gotten a simple majority, 50% plus 1 more vote. At the end of this round, Infantino and Al Khalifa were once again head by major numbers, but Infantino managed to edge Al Khalifa out by 27 votes.
As viewers can see, Al Khalifa was cordial after his defeat, and embraced Infantino as he began to walk up to the podium to address the general congress. Here's what he had to say:
As viewers remember, before the Election, Gianni Infantino was positioning himself to the Football nations as someone who they can trust to right the FIFA ship. As you would remember he told the press that he supported the public bodies who were investigating and prosecuting the football executive accused of taking bribes and corrupting the sport at the highest level. Here are those comments:
And, in all of the live footage, all 6 hours of it which we poured over, we to see to if FFB President Ruperto was caught on tape. The FIFA technical team which was carrying the broadcast showed a few of the Country representatives who went into the ballot area to cast their vote. In both rounds, we looked on patiently to see the cameras catch Vicente as he casted his vote, but in both instances, the broadcast switched some more prominent Football nation. Now, it's nothing unusual or anything to take issue with, since Belize was on Global stage in this instance, and like all the other smaller nations, it's easy to go unnoticed. We did speak to Vicente Via phone during the congress, and he told us that he had placed his vote. He told us that he could not reveal who that person was since the election was happening at the time. When we called back later in the day, we couldn't reach him for a second time. We'll catch up with him when he returns to the country from Zurich.