Gurgaon - UEFA's Gianni Infantino said he would work to
clean up FIFA from "day one" if elected leader after an evening of
close discussions with his Asian rival Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa.
Infantino told AFP that he would instigate reforms
immediately if he is elected on February 26 to succeed the suspended and deeply
controversial Sepp Blatter.
The general secretary of the European body was speaking
after sitting side-by-side with Sheikh Salman, another leading contender for
FIFA, at Sunday's Asian football awards near New Delhi.
"Reforms... need to be not only agreed but they need to
be implemented as well," the Italian said late on Sunday.
"So as of day one, 27th of February, you have to start
implementing and living the reforms, and from doing it on a day-by-day basis in
UEFA I know what it means -- good governance, financial transparency, structure
of changes that are being proposed."
Infantino and Sheikh Salman, president of the Asian Football
Confederation (AFC), were seen having cordial discussions during the awards
ceremony and gala dinner in Gurgaon.
Also read: Infantino ‘to withdraw’ if Platini stands for FIFA presidency
A third FIFA candidate, Jordan's Prince Ali bin Al Hussein,
who has been at odds with Sheikh Salman in the past, was seated elsewhere.
Neither Prince Ali or Sheikh Salman were prepared to discuss
their FIFA ambitions, but the Bahraini royal gave an indication of Asia's
growing clout and ambition in his opening address.
"For a long time people talked about the future being
Asia. I am now convinced that the present is Asia," Sheikh Salman told the
crowd of hundreds of delegates.
"I'm certain that we stand on the very brink of
greatness in this continent, the dawning of an Asian age."
- Time for change -
Sheikh Salman and Infantino are shaping as the leading
candidates to take over FIFA, after a period of unprecedented turmoil sparked
by a series of corruption claims.
Sheikh Salman's bid has strong backing in Asia, one of
FIFA's biggest federations, as well as the heavyweight support of Kuwaiti
powerbroker Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah.
Infantino is Europe's main candidate, after Michel Platini
was suspended over a suspect $2 million payment, and he has also been promised
the votes of the 10-member South American confederation.
He skirted questioning about the challenge posed by Sheikh
Salman, and said what football needed was open debate about its future, as well
as unity among FIFA's 209 members.
"Sheikh Salman is obviously the president of a very
important confederation, the AFC. It's normal that he has the backing here, the
same as I have the backing in Europe," Infantino said.
"South America has expressed also their backing for me
which another important football confederation... what I hope and what I think
will happen is we can debate.
"Because what football needs as well is a proper debate
on the future. As long we can do that in a constructive way it's always
He added that it was the "right moment" for
changes at FIFA, helmed by the 79-year-old Blatter since 1998 and now trapped
in mounting bribery claims, mostly related to the hosting of World Cups.
"There will be reforms and there will be a change of
leadership but it's the right moment because I think really it's important that
when you speak about FIFA, you speak again about football," he said.
"And not about all the other things which unfortunately
are in the headlines for the last period."
Jerome Champagne and Tokyo Sexwale are the other two
candidates hoping to take over from Blatter, who is under investigation by
Swiss prosecutors and FIFA's ethics commission.For
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