Photo: Daniel Studio
FIFA presidential election
UPDATE: In the second round of voting in Zurich today, Gianni Infantino was elected president of FIFA with 115 votes out of the 207 cast.
Infantino said after his election,
We will restore the image of FIFA and the respect of FIFA and everyone in the world will applaud us.
I want to work with all of you together in order to restore and rebuild a new era of FIFA where we can put again football at the centre of the stage.
FIFA has gone through sad times, moments of crisis, but those times are over. We need to implement the reform and implement good governance and transparency. We also need to have respect.
We’re going to win back this respect through hard work, commitment and we’re going to make sure we can finally focus on this wonderful game that is football.
US Soccer president Sunil Gulati confirmed that after voting for Prince Ali in the the first round, the federation voted for Infantino in the second round. Gulati said Infantino knew the US would vote for Ali in the first round and then vote for Infantino “when it mattered as long as he was in the race.”
Asked if Infantino’s election helps the chances the US will host the World Cup in 2026, Gulati said, “I think it’s a little early to talk about 2026 but, you know, I think you can rest assured it got brought up in some of the discussions we’ve had over the last couple of days.”
FIFPro said in a statement after the election,
FIFPro takes a dim view of today’s FIFA election that leaves the new President, Gianni Infantino, entrenched in a governance structure and culture that is open to corrupt practices.
Despite a package of reforms approved today by FIFA, FIFPro fears placing increased power in the hands of FIFA’s 209 member associations lies at the heart of the problem. These organisations are not representative of the game and, yet, wield enormous influence over issues that affect key stakeholders such as the players, fans, clubs and leagues. The newly-adopted reforms failed to address the fundamental issue of making football authorities accountable to the game’s most important actors.
FIFA’s system of governance has been based on favour swapping and financial inducements, not to mention obstructing external oversight from governments and the game’s key stakeholders. The players, much like the clubs, leagues and fans, were ignored in the latest reform effort and today’s governance review will not suffice to address FIFA’s inherent governance shortcomings.
As of this writing, the first round of voting for the next president of FIFA has concluded with no winner. A two-thirds majority — 138 votes out of the 207 eligible votes — was needed to win in the first round. Gianni Infantino received 88 votes, Sheikh Salman 85 votes, Prince Ali received 27 votes, and Jerome Champagne received 7 votes. Tokyo Sexwale announced he was suspending his campaign before the vote.
A simple majority — 104 votes — is needed in the second round to elect a next president. If there is no winner after the second round, the candidate with the fewest votes is excluded from the third round.
The Union conclude preseason play on Saturday in the Suncoast Invitational when they face Toronto FC at 4 pm in Clearwater (PhiladelphiaUnion.com, YouTube). Jozy Altidore will likely be unavailable for Toronto because of a hamstring strain. Philly native and former Union Academy player Darius Madison will not be with Toronto. On Thursday TFC announced Madison, along with four other players, would be joining TFCII. Brotherly Game has a preview.
Although he received a red card in Wednesday’s scoreless draw with NYRB, PSP understands new Union signing Ilsinho will be available for selection for Saturday’s game. And rightly so. Teams participate in preseason tournaments so players can get match time and Ilsinho serving an automatic one-game suspension would go against that. The standard rules regarding roster size, the number of substitutions and even, in some cases, the length of games, are altered in the preseason in the larger interest of training, so why shouldn’t the same be the case when it comes to red card suspensions? Ilsinho being ejected from Wednesday’s game just before the end of the first half, and the Union playing the second half down a man, was punishment enough. Play on.
FourFourTwo includes Jim Curtin in its list of MLS head coaches in the hot seat for 2016:
Here’s Curtin’s problem in a nutshell: Beyond the very basic issue of turning a losing club into a winner, he isn’t Earnie Stewart’s guy. When the former U.S. men’s national team midfielder arrived from the Netherlands to take the reigns as sporting director of Philadelphia Union, fans rejoiced; Stewart’s hiring represented leadership for a club that has been floundering. But that might be bad news for Curtin, who remains head coach despite the front office changes in large part because finding a replacement was too big a big task on a short timeline.
Curtin will get his chance to prove he can enact Stewart’s plan, but it’s difficult to imagine he’ll get a long leash. Stewart doesn’t strike as the type to make change just for the sake of change, but if the revamped Union start out slowly or are well off the playoff pace come summer, Stewart won’t be out of bounds to bounce Curtin in a bid to salvage the season. It would be strange if Stewart doesn’t impose himself with regards to the head coach spot eventually.
Prediction: The Union improve enough to see Curtin hold on to the job for 2016, but another playoff-less season results in a change next winter.
Question: Does anyone seriously think Curtin does not know this?
At the Union website, a brief review of Tuesday’s training session in Clearwater.
At SBI, Tranquillo Barnetta talks about the changes underway in 2016 for himself and the team. Of the opening two games against Dallas and Columbus, Barnetta said, “We try to make a good start. That’s for us, not to show someone else, because it’s a long season. Even if you win a game, I don’t think the whole league will look at you and say we are afraid of them.”
In an appearance on Sports Talk Florida before Wednesday’s game against the Union, NYRB goalkeeper Luis Robles said he always enjoys playing Philadelphia and praised the Sons of Ben for their support of the UNion home and away.
In just their fourth Union-related post since October, Philly Magazine notes Ilsinho’s red card.
USA Today has a photo gallery from Wednesday’s game.
MLSGB previews the 2016 season.
Penn97 reports A post at the website of Pittsburgh Riverhounds supporters group the Steel Army this year’s Keystone Derby Cup, which began with Harrisburg City Islanders and Pittsburgh Riverhounds, will be sponsored by the Pennsylvania Lottery. However, the post says, “The one thing to note is Bethlehem Steel will NOT be involved.” By the way, Bethlehem is scrimmaging Junior Lone Star at YSC this morning.
Penn97 reports, “When the Philadelphia Union announced their intention to create a club in the Lehigh Valley, supporters thought that the new club would be included in the Keystone Derby Cup. In the offseason, the Harrisburg City Islanders and Pittsburgh Riverhounds told PENN97 that there had been discussions to include Bethlehem, but one source admitted that it wasn’t a high priority for either club.” How lame is that?
Midfielder Cardel Benbow will return to Harrisburg City Islanders for a second season.
Official: Seattle has confirmed the transfer of Obafemi Martins to Shanghai Shenhua. A quote from Brad Evans is the best: “Everybody inside the locker room has been really happy, and we haven’t really spoken about Oba at all. If we thought there was something missing, there would be more chatter.”
Toronto has waived Like Moore.
San Jose has traded Targeted Allocation Money and an international spot to Colorado in exchange for a General Allocation money.
The Reno USL expansion team, set to begin play in 2017, announced its name on Thursday, Reno 1868 FC, so becoming “the only active American soccer team to use the city’s founding year in its official name.” Colors and crest will be unveiled at a latter date.
At Philly.com, Jonathan Tannenwald on the timeline for US Soccer’s lawsuit against the USWNT players association following the release of a joint status report on Wednesday..
Goal.com notes the US Soccer Twitter account no longer displays the current US Soccer crest and also showed an image of workers removing the logo from the federation’s headquarters in Chicago. (The avatar on the tab of the US Soccer website now simply shows a US flag.) The report also notes leaked images of the new crest “received a fair share of complaints.”
Sunil Gulati announced on Twitter on Thursday that the US will vote for Prince Ali for the FIFA presidency. Assuming no candidate wins after the first round of voting, the federation might then vote for another candidate in the second round, namely Gianni Infantino, although Gulati would not confirm this in an interview on FS1. In case you’re wondering, the Canadian Soccer Association endorsed Infantino.
The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy’s director for advocacy said before the vote that if Sheikh Salman, who is accused of being involved in the repression of supporters of the pro-democracy movement in his home country, is elected, “FIFA will be declaring its moral collapse.”
Ahead of today’s election, FIFA members voted overwhelmingly to approve a set of reforms “that pave the way for significant improvements to the governance of global football, including a clear separation of commercial and political decision-making, greater scrutiny of senior officials, and commitments to promoting women in football and human rights.” 179 of the 207 member associations voting approved the reform package, a summary of which you can view here. More from The Guardian, Soccer America, PA Sport, and Reuters.
The AP reports, “Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan stands ready to help FIFA see through reforms.”
ESPNW ranks the candidates according to gender-equity reform. In related news, Reuters reports UEFA delegates decided on Thursday “At least one woman will be elected to the executive committee of European soccer’s governing body UEFA for the first time in May.”
ESPN has a Q&A with Harvard professor John Ruggie, the former assistant secretary general at the United Nations, who is now advising FIFA on human rights-related reforms.
From ESPN: “FIFA is expected to show a loss of at least $100 million when it publish the 2015 financial report next month.”
The AP reports, “Russia has reduced the budget for the 2018 World Cup by almost $80 million, less than five months after the sports minister ruled out further spending cuts.”
In an interview with the New York Times, Sepp Blatter says he is confident his ban from soccer will be overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport: “This ban of six years, eight years, 20 years — whatever it is, it will not be upheld by the tribunal. In their ruling, they took out bribery and corruption — so what is left if there is no bribery and corruption? It’s not logical.” Blatter said, “Every day is a fiesta. “I am a happy man. Sometimes sad, yes. But I am a happy man.” But he also said he has no plans to return to the game, even if his six-year suspension would expire in time for him to be involved with the 2022 World Cup in Qatar: “Enough is enough. I will always be a president.”
In another interview, Blatter said he was “deeply disappointed” his ban was not overturned. “That of all things the independent appeal committee, on which there are many old comrades, bans me, is really hard on me. But for what? For a financial procedure that has nothing to do with ethics.” Asked if he has been approached by the US to be a whistleblower in the ongoing corruption case, Blatter said, “I would not accept such an offer because I am not a referee.”
In a different interview, Blatter said there was “a kind of conspiracy at FIFA” to prevent Michel Platini from becoming president of the federation. Platini said he will fight on:
I’m not going to commit suicide. I’m not on Lexomil (anxiety medication)…My destiny wasn’t to be president of FIFA but to be in the France team. I’m not a politician, I’m a football man. And today, I still am. But I’ll fight to the end against the injustice, to be cleared, because I’ve done absolutely nothing wrong. The bureaucrats of FIFA have taken power. It’s these people who have done everything to “sack” me. Today, we need to know which FIFA we want. Do we want a FIFA which belongs to the elected representatives or a FIFA run by bureaucrats? That’s the challenge of the years ahead.
Reuters reports, “Swiss authorities have sent more documents, including an internal FIFA report on whether bribery helped countries win World Cup hosting rights, to U.S. investigators probing corruption in world soccer, the justice ministry said.”
And if you need a reminder of that the power of soccer is more than politics and corruption, there’s this…
— UNICEF Afghanistan (@UNICEFAfg) February 25, 2016
— UNICEF ARGENTINA (@UNICEFargentina) February 25, 2016
More on the story at Al Jazeera.