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Sat May 28 07:57:39 SAST 2016

Asia Olympic chief warns FIFA 'reform won't happen overnight'

AFP | 28 February, 2016 09:10
Newly elected FIFA President Gianni Infantino attends a news conference during the Extraordinary FIFA Congress in Zurich, Switzerland.
Image by: ARND WIEGMANN / REUTERS

Asia Olympic chief Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah on Saturday hailed Gianni Infantino's victory in the FIFA presidential election as a "new era" but warned "reform won't happen overnight".

UEFA secretary-general Infantino won the fight to succeed the suspended Sepp Blatter in Friday's vote, defeating three other candidates including Al Sabah's close ally, Asian football chief Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa.

"The FIFA Congress' overwhelming approval of the wide-ranging reforms proposed by the FIFA Reform Committee demonstrated the shared belief that change is needed," said Al Sabah.

"As a member of the FIFA Reform Committee I was proud to be able to contribute to the proposals but I know that we still have a long way to go -- reform cannot happen overnight.

The Kuwaiti added: "However, under the new leadership of President Infantino...I believe we have established a foundation from which we can drive forward and once again put the joy back into football.

"I greatly look forward to the positive changes in the years ahead which will put the focus back on football and herald a new era for our global sport."

Meanwhile, former FIFA official Jerome Champagne, one of the three defeated candidates on Friday along with Sheikh Salman and Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan, said the vote represented a return "by FIFA's Anglo-Saxon world".

"The election of Gianni Infantino illustrates the return of FIFA's Anglo-Saxon world and the revenge of Europe after 1974," Champagne told AFP.

"The questions of imbalance between continents and federations remain unanswered."

In 1974, Brazil's Joao Havelange became the first non-European president of FIFA, unseating Englishman Stanley Rous who was so convinced of his re-election that he hardly campaigned.

Havelange had travelled widely throughout Africa, in the company of Pele, to generate support.

In 1998, Blatter defeated Sweden's UEFA president Lennart Johansson having also secured the support of Africa.

Blatter had pledged that he would deliver a World Cup to the continent and in 2010 South Africa became the first African hosts of the showpiece event.

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