FIFA, as you may have heard, is a giant cesspool of a clusterfuck. Or was, in the hopes of soccer fans the world over after the U.S. Department of Justice catalyzed a long overdue purging of the governing body's senior leadership. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch's probe into FIFA's corruption not only shook up the organization's calcified management, it ushered in a new era of governance and transparency*.
* for now
Whether or not that asterisk remains is largely dependent upon whether new FIFA boss Gianni Infantino is being honest about his intent and is capable of seeing through the significant changes he's already put into motion. In a terrific interview with Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl this week, the Swiss native held forth on his plans.
|We are playing football!|
In response to Wahl's question about how he would restore FIFA's image in the eyes of the growing American fan base, Infantino said:
"By showing with facts rather than with words that I am a true football fan, to start with, that I’m genuinely interested in running this organization in a transparent way, a modern way, a professional way. That I’m genuinely interested in bringing people to speak about football when they speak about FIFA. This has to go through the whole reform process that we are implementing now in terms of transparency and good governance. But these are things which go without saying. We have to show with facts that we are doing it. And once we are doing it, and we have started now, we can again focus on speaking about football. When people start again associating FIFA with football, then we’ve won the trust of the people back. I expect people to judge me and my actions with the results of what I’m doing—and not with any other happenings that other people did maybe misusing FIFA’s name in the past."The former second chair at UEFA also held forth on the growth of the women's game, his support of more use of replay technology in soccer, and the expansion of the World Cup. But what won my support were two things more prosaic and telling about the man's priorities. Wahl's introduction to the piece found Infantino at a bar in Manhattan, where he went by himself to watch the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals. Then, in the interview, Infantino describes one of his first acts as FIFA President:
"The things I’m most happy about is I said I wanted to bring football back to FIFA and FIFA back to football. So the first thing that I organized on a Monday—and it was bloody cold!—was a football match. But it was great fun. And to have so many of these star players come, I wouldn’t have dreamed about it. I remember the Friday night after the election, I said I wanted to do this on my first day in office. So I was asking my colleagues: Bring your shoes on Monday, we have to play football. Then on Saturday I called a couple, and they called each other, and on Sunday about 20 top players, men and women, came and it was great."Can you imagine Roger Goodell calling his colleagues and saying, "We have to play football"?