Infantino re-elected FIFA president despite controversies
SIMON MAINA/ AFP
Gianni Infantino was re-elected as FIFA president during the 73rd Congress in Kigali on Thursday, promising record revenues in the next four-year cycle of $11 billion as he called for more football to be played around the world.
Infantino stood unopposed, making his re-election as head of football’s governing body a formality.
“It is an incredible honour and privilege, and a great responsibility,” Infantino said. “I promise to continue serving FIFA and football around the world.
“To those that love me, and I know there are many, and those who hate me … I love you all.”
He confirmed FIFA’s income hit record levels in the last cycle from 2019-22, but promised to substantially raise this again on the back of expanded men’s and women’s World Cup tournaments and the introduction of a 32-team Club World Cup.
“Revenues rose to a record $7.5 billion (to 2022) in a period that was hit by COVID-19. When I arrived, FIFA reserves stood at around $1 billion, today they are at almost $4 billion,” Infantino said.
“We promise new record revenues for the next cycle of $11 billion, and the new Club World Cup is not included in that figure, so it could increase by a couple of billion (more).”
Infantino said FIFA would continue to review the transfer system to “improve transparency” and suggested the organisation might discuss a salary cap.
“We must improve our regulations and the FIFA statutes. We will continue to evolve our good governance principles and look at the transfer system, and maybe have a discussion to improve transparency of transfer fees and salaries.
“It might be necessary to introduce a cap, we have to think how we can do that. We will look at it with all stakeholders and see what we can do.”
Infantino also suggested that FIFA had cleaned up its act with regards to governance.
“Every single dollar that is being invested in projects and associations will undergo an independent audit. Money just doesn’t get lost any more.
“That is why the institutions have regained their trust in FIFA. The Department of Justice of the United States has given us more than $200 million back that was stolen by corrupt officials. We have re-invested that in football.”
Player welfare groups have questioned FIFA’s decision to expand the men’s World Cup from 64 to 104 games, but Infantino says there needs to be more football played around the world.
“When I hear there is too much football, yes, maybe in some places, but not everywhere. In fact, in most parts of the world there is not enough football played.
“We need way more and not less competitions, we want football to develop worldwide.
“We are discussing organising a women’s Club World Cup and a FIFA World Series in March every two years, when teams are free from playing qualifiers.”
Infantino was first elected in an Extraordinary Congress in 2016 following the resignation of his predecessor Sepp Blatter, and retained his position unopposed three years later.
But this counts as his second term of office and he will therefore be available for a third and final term in four years’ time.
Ronaldo leads the way for Portugal while England extend winning run – ARN News Centre
KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/ AFP
Cristiano Ronaldo grabbed two goals in his country’s 6-0 thrashing of Luxembourg in a Euro 2024 qualifier on Sunday, giving them a second win in four days.
The 38-year-old grabbed a double against Liechtenstein on Thursday and scored twice more in Luxembourg to extend his record tally of international goals to 122 in 198 appearances.
Joao Felix, Bernardo Silva, Otavio and Rafael Leao added the other goals to put Portugal top of Group J after an easy start to their qualifying campaign.
Elsewhere, Harry Kane underlined his status as England’s greatest international goalscorer and Bukayo Saka dazzled again in a comfortable 2-0 win over Ukraine to put Gareth Southgate’s team in control of Group C.
Fresh from scoring his 54th goal in the 2-1 victory over Italy on Thursday, Kane made up for a couple of missed chances to break the stalemate in the 37th minute.
Arsenal youngster Saka, again England’s brightest spark, then doubled the lead before halftime with a sensational curler that left the visitors and their 4,000 fans deflated.
Ukraine had their moments and enjoyed some pressure after the interval but never really looked capable of claiming only a second victory over England in 10 attempts.
Meanwhile, goals by forward Mateo Retegui and midfielder Matteo Pessina steered Italy to a 2-0 win over Malta in the other Group C clash.
Italy opened the scoring in the 15th minute when Retegui broke free from his marker to power in a header from a corner with Pessina doubling the lead after 27 minutes when he tapped Emerson’s cross in from a short distance.
Vincenzo Grifo was close to make it three for the visitors shortly after but Malta goalkeeper Henry Bonello skilfully blocked his attempt.
Italy came close to increasing their lead in the second half when Gianluca Scamacca produced an overhead kick from a corner but Bonello came to the rescue again with a one-handed reaction save.
Other matches in the second round saw Slovakia beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 2-0, Iceland crush Liechtenstein 7-0, Kazakhstan overcome Denmark 3-2, Slovenia beat San Marino 2-0, and Finland edge Northern Ireland 1-0.
Argentina FA training facility renamed after Messi – ARN News Centre
The Argentina national team’s training facility has been renamed after talismanic captain Lionel Messi in recognition of his World Cup heroics and star-studded career, the country’s football association (AFA) said.
The Casa de Ezeiza in Buenos Aires, which houses the national team set-up, will now be known as Lionel Andres Messi “in tribute to the best player in the world”, AFA president Claudio Tapia wrote on Twitter.
“Welcome to the world champion’s house,” Tapia said at the unveiling ceremony attended by current and former Argentina players.
Messi ended Argentina’s 36-year wait for the World Cup, emulating the late Diego Maradona when he led them to victory against France in a pulsating final in Qatar in December.
“I feel very happy. This tribute is very, very special,” Messi, 35, said after unveiling the plaque bearing his name. “Knowing it will be named Lionel Andres Messi is something very beautiful.”
The World Cup had been the one piece of silverware missing from Messi’s extraordinary career, during which he has been voted the world’s best player a record seven times and won the Copa America, 11 league titles and four Champions League titles among other major honours.
Messi scored his 800th career goal in Thursday’s 2-0 win over Panama in a friendly in Buenos Aires – Argentina’s first game in front of their home fans since the World Cup triumph.
He will lead Argentina in a friendly against Curacao on Tuesday before returning to club duty with Paris St Germain.
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Late Joselu double helps Spain beat Norway 3-0 in Euro qualifier – ARN News Centre
Spain’s late substitute Joselu struck two quick-fire goals on his debut to seal a 3-0 win over Norway in their first Euro 2024 Group A qualifier on Saturday as they got off to a promising start under new manager Luis de la Fuente.
Spain, who have won their last 23 European home qualifiers, took the lead in the 13th minute through Dani Olmo, who flicked the ball into the bottom corner with the outside of his boot after being set up by defender Alejandro Balde.
Norway tried to respond two minutes later when Martin Odegaard’s strike was blocked by Nacho, who returned to the Spain team after a near five-year absence.
Striker Alvaro Morata was close to doubling their lead in the 25th but the newly-appointed Spain captain was seconds late to latch onto a low cross by Olmo.
Norway could have levelled just before the half-hour mark with a powerful first-time shot by Fredrik Aursnes but Spain keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, returning for his first cap since October 2020, showed quick reflexes to parry the ball.
Spain, rebuilding with 61-year-old De la Fuente following a last-16 World Cup exit to eventual semi-finalists Morocco, continued to press as they were less focused on possession and much more on going straight for the opposing goal.
This proved enough against a motivated Norway side who nonetheless lacked bite up front in the absence of the injured Erling Haaland and spurned several more chances including from Marcus Pedersen and Alexander Sorloth in the second half.
Spain could only relax however when they doubled their lead in the 84th minute as striker Joselu nodded in a brilliant cross by midfielder Fabian Ruiz three minutes after coming on.
The 32-year-old struck again a minute later to make it 3-0 for the Euro 2020 semi-finalists from a rebound.
He became the first Spanish player to score twice on his debut since Fernando Morientes’ double against Sweden in 1998.
“I have to thank (the coach) for the faith he’s shown in me in his first match in charge. I tried to give my all to reward him,” Joselu said.
“Right now I feel like an 18-year-old kid again. I don’t think age matters – and this is an incredible day to prove that.”
De la Fuente, who previously managed Spain youth teams and saw them win Under-19 and Under-21 European Championships in 2015 and 2019, was happy with his side’s display.
“Besides, the attitude I’ve seen, the desire to win, makes me very optimistic,” he said.
Spain next face Scotland in Glasgow on Tuesday when Norway travel to Georgia.