Australia might not have got its man in the FIFA presidential election but FFA chief Steven Lowy says there is reason to celebrate Gianni Infantino’s rise to the summit of the world football body.
The Swiss-Italian Infantino defeated Bahraini favourite Sheik Salman al-Khalifa and the recipient of Australia’s vote, Jordanian Royal Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein, in Saturday morning’s (AEDT) vote.
While an Asian missed out on the chance to succeed disgraced former leader Sepp Blatter at FIFA, Lowy hailed the election of a reformist candidate to the top job.
“Today is really a watershed day for FIFA,” he said.
“Our initial support was for Prince Ali because we felt that he was a serious reform candidate with strong credentials … (but) we are very pleased that Gianni was elected.
“He himself is a reform candidate. We are hugely impressed with his energy, his capability, his experience.
“We feel the combinations of the new reforms and the election of Gianni will be very positive for the game and world football will rally around him.”
Lowy had foreshadowed FFA’s intentions to vote for Prince Ali prior to the vote, the only candidate who fulfilled Australia’s twin priorities of reforming FIFA and supporting Asia.
Fellow Asian candidate Sheikh Salman, who was trumped by Infantino, was not seen as offering change to the besieged body.
He was personally plagued by serious allegations of overseeing major human rights abuses during the Arab Spring.
Prince Ali’s voters were seen as crucial to delivering Infantino victory.
In a tight first ballot, the Jordanian received 27 votes.
In the second ballot, his supporters moved to Infantino’s column, allowing the European to triumph over the Asian confederation’s president.
Infantino triumphed 115-88, with Prince Ali holding onto just four votes, one of which was Australia’s.
Lowy said Australia would not be left in the cold for failing to support the Bahraini.
“We don’t expect any repercussions to that because we voted for a very credible candidate from Asia,” he said.
While the murky backroom dealing of FIFA politics has left many offside, not least the bidders for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, Lowy reported a positive feeling from Zurich.
“It feels like the best day that FIFA has had in a very long time,” he said.
“Transformational reforms were put into place (regarding) governance of the game, transparency, gender equality … these are clearly all positive things for FIFA and the game.”