Gianni Infantino is set to be waved in for a third four-year term as FIFA president when world football’s governing body holds its annual congress in the Rwandan capital Kigali on Thursday.
Delegates from the 211 member federations will have a limited choice at the 73rd FIFA Congress, between re-electing the 52-year-old incumbent by acclamation or symbolically disapproving.
Unexpectedly elected in February 2016 following the scandal that brought down Sepp Blatter, Infantino already stood unopposed for re-election in 2019 and is now poised to stay in charge of world football until at least 2027.
While the statutes of the Zurich-based organisation currently limit a president to a maximum of three four-year terms, Infantino has already prepared the ground to stay until 2031, declaring in December that his first three years at the helm did not count as a full term.
The Swiss-Italian lawyer, born less than 10 kilometres away from Blatter’s home village, has nevertheless never been far away from controversy as president of FIFA, as he has moved to expand the men’s World Cup and the Club World Cup during his time at the helm.
He staunchly defended Qatar, host of the recent men’s World Cup whose treatment of migrant workers, women and the LGBTQ community came under the spotlight.
Infantino accused Western critics of the decision to award the tournament to the Gulf state of “hypocrisy” and “double standards”.
It will not all be plain sailing for Infantino in Kigali, with the Norwegian Football Federation tabling a proposal to discuss “FIFA’s responsibilities to remedy human rights abuses” in relation to the Qatar World Cup and future tournaments.
– Expansion plans –
However, European opponents to Infantino were not able to put forward a candidate to stand against the president who has already overseen the expansion of the men’s World Cup from 32 teams to 48 in time for the 2026 edition in North America.
That is set to lead to a significant increase in the number of matches played, just as the upcoming Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand will feature 32 teams, up from 24 at the last edition.
Infantino has delivered on promises to make those tournaments bigger and is now eager to push through another of his pet projects, the expanded Club World Cup.
“The new competition will take place in 2025 and will feature 32 teams, making it really like a World Cup,” he said in Doha in December.