Lausanne, Switzerland (AFP) — Fifa President Gianni Infantino yesterday defended his fight “against corruption” in football in spite of being under criminal investigation in Switzerland, since the end of July.
Infantino said yesterday at the opening of the 70th Fifa Congress held by videoconference with delegates from 211 member federations that he believed he had restored the integrity of the body after a wave of scandals.
“We will never again have corruption in football…We have excluded it and we will not let it come back,” promised a bullish Infantino who also referenced his predecessor Sepp Blatter, ousted in 2015.
“Fifa became victim to corrupt officials — that’s not what I say, that’s what courts say all over the world, and Fifa is still suffering from that.
“In 2015 Fifa was toxic, was pronounced dead. An organisation that had served itself from football, had used football, instead of serving football.”
Infantino, in charge of world football’s governing body since 2016, is the subject of an investigation over suspected collusion between him and Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber, who resigned in July over his handling of a corruption investigation targeting Fifa.
“So why was I meeting the Swiss attorney general? Because it was my duty as Fifa president because I wanted to liberate Fifa from those old, toxic values.”
“We will be able to convince the sceptics eventually. (The meetings with Lauber) were meant to define that the new Fifa was miles away from the old Fifa.”
Infantino also met on Wednesday in Washington with the US Minister of Justice William Barr, while the United States is still investigating several South American football leaders and marketing officials for “racketeering” or corruption.
Infantino, a lawyer by training, claimed his reforms introduced since his first election in 2016, were the reason why Fifa has been able to release US$1.5 billion (1.3 billion euros) in grants and loans to help federations to face the consequences of the pandemic.
“We have the money (to help) because in the new Fifa, the money doesn’t disappear,” he said.
“We will know exactly where (the money) goes, and why it goes there. It will be fully transparent.”