Gianni Infantino Elected FIFA President, Will Succeed Sepp Blatter

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Feb 26, 2016 02:05 PM EST
New FIFA president Gianni Infantino
New FIFA president Gianni Infantino reacts after winning the FIFA presidential election during the extraordinary FIFA Congress in Zurich on Feb. 26. "

Gianni Infantino of Switzerland was elected as the new president of FIFA on Friday after winning the election in a second-round vote, according to the BBC. He finished ahead of Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa of Bahrain, earning 115 votes to take the election. Infantino comes into the presidency after serving as the UEFA general secretary since 2009. The 45-year-old will replace Blatter, who was previously suspended by FIFA's ethics committee over financial payments to Michel Platini, the president of UEFA.

Infantino finished ahead of al-Khalifa, who earned 88 votes, while Prince Ali bin al-Hussein and Jerome Champagne finished third and fourth in the voting. The election was held after Blatter previously won a fifth presidential term in May. The New York Times reports that al-Khalifa was considered to be the favorite through most of the campaign, but that some voters "were likely concerned by the questions surrounding Salman regarding human rights."

Infantino worked as the top deputy for Platini, and was not considering a run for the position until Platini was suspended. "Five months ago, I was not thinking to be a candidate, I was not thinking of being in front of you today," Infantino said before the election, according to The New York Times. "But many things have happened."

FIFA was in the midst of a corruption investigation at the time of the last election, and Blatter announced his resignation soon after winning the position. The first round of balloting on Friday did not produce a clear majority, with Infantino earning 88 of the 138 votes needed to win. The second ballot only needed a simple majority to win, and Infantino earned enough votes to take the election on that ballot.

"We will restore the image of FIFA, and everyone in the world will applaud us, and all of you, for what we do in FIFA in the future," Infantino said after winning the election, according to The New York Times.

Blatter said in a statement after the election that Infantino "is a worthy successor to continue his work." He will take over for Blatter through the rest of this current presidential term, which will last until May of 2019. 

Infantino's campaign included a number of plans and reforms for FIFA, including the potential expansion of the World Cup, and guaranteed funding for each member nation of the governing body. He wants to potentially expand the World Cup to 40 teams, according to USA Today. Infantino previously expanded the European Championship while working in his previous position.

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