Tough road ahead
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown’ seems to be an adage that Gianni Infantino is gradually realising and that too barely a week into the top job at FIFA. At 45 years of age, he is rather young to carry on the global responsibility that includes not only steering the fortunes of the world’s most popular sport but also cleansing it of its ill-gotten notoriety.
‘Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown’ seems to be an adage that Gianni Infantino is gradually realising and that too barely a week into the top job at FIFA. At 45 years of age, he is rather young to carry on the global responsibility that includes not only steering the fortunes of the world’s most popular sport but also cleansing it of its ill-gotten notoriety.
He stepped into the shoes of one of the most controversial administrators in sports history. It is not that the Swiss-Swede has no past record that cannot be classified in the dubious category. After all, for one who threw his hat in the ring rather enthusiastically, he opted out of the FIFA presidential elections when his mentor for all practical purposes, Michel Platini, the UEFA chief, was suspended for fraud.
The greed for power apparently was too strong for him to resist, which brought him back in contention as one of the five contestants. Moreover, the Yul Brynner-styled lawyer takes centrestage at what can be described as the worst possible times for the world governing body. Corruption, scandals, a controversial winter World Cup, sleazy run-up to the allotment of the 2022 and 2026 World Cups sit uncomfortably on the new man in the hot seat.
There have been global condemnations at the manner the game has been brought to disrepute because of Blatter, whose whims and fancies rendered more damage than ever thought possible. If the undisputed leader of the pack was unshakable in his position as the monarch of all he surveyed, Blatter, knowingly or unwittingly, brought together all forces that were opposed to his style of nepotism, tooth and nail. Demands for ushering in major reforms, which were reaching a crescendo, were reminiscent of similar calls against the dictatorial rule of N Srinivasan, whose career in the BCCI has some starling likeness to that of Blatter.
Not ironically, both met their waterloo when rebellion from within developed into a potent weapon. Infantino has got down to business with a rare bravado that saw him give a clarion call to all and sundry on the need to reinvigorate the game, and ensure that the overhaul that he proposes would revolve only around football and nothing else. One wonders if mere gibberish can be translated into practical relevance considering that his win was no cakewalk and he still has ambitious opponents within the system.
One should appreciate Blatter for the way he has cautioned his successor. His words ring true. ‘Hanging on to the position you wanted will not be easy. There will be no miracles. Prepare yourself well but be vigilant. While everyone supports you, friends become rare.” Nothing can be far from the truth. The likelihood of such a setback is gradually hitting the incumbent on his face.
And this comes from the controversially outspoken Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini. His latest claim that Infantino "bought" votes on his way to being elected president is likely to snowball into a major headache in the days ahead. Infantino has a lot of lessons to learn and these are still early days for him.