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Infantino: From enforcer to envoy

/ 05:20 AM October 25, 2019

Embarking on a weeklong tour of East Asia, Federation Internationale de Football Association (Fifa) president Gianni Infantino started a blur of a visit to Manila on Sunday. Soon as his plane landed, he switched from enforcer to envoy.

Before his arrival, Infantino had demanded worldwide lifetime bans from football stadiums around the world for those guilty of racist behavior. The 49-year-old lawyer, elected early this year to a second term as head of football’s world governing body, made the call following a Euro 2020 qualifier in Sofia, Bulgaria, on Oct. 14.

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The match, pitting the home team and England, had been halted twice because Bulgarian fans were making Nazi salutes and directing monkey chants at black England players.

“So many times he (Infantino) has reiterated that there is no place for racism in football,” noted Mariano Araneta, president of the Philippine Football Federation (PFF). “But nonetheless, there are still challenges to tackle this problem in the sport, as well as in society.”

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While taking care of business immediately during his two-day stay, Infantino also lost no time performing his role as Fifa’s roving ambassador.

He noted that although the Azkals, the country’s men’s team again proved to be unsuccessful on the world stage, it reached the AFC Asian Cup for the first time this year in the United Arab Emirates after the Malditas took part in the AFC Women’s Cup in Jordan.

Our stints in these tournaments “are watershed moments in Philippine football,” Araneta added.

“Certainly, we want to see the Philippines in the World Cup or at least fighting very close to the World Cup” within the next 10-15 years, Infantino also told a select group of sports reporters, including the Inquirer’s Cedelf Tupas.

“Infantino’s visit to the Philippines focused on how the PFF is able to support football development, and how as a member country, we can solidify the growth of the sport in line with the Fifa’s Forward program, its thrust to member associations to continuously foster the sport in their countries,” Araneta said.

He said Infantino believes that the “changing landscape of football in the country will be featuring more infrastructure and increasing competitive leagues.”

Araneta said physical structures will include the PFF National Training Center and the proposed $4-million (roughly P200 million) PFF headquarters and dormitories in Carmona, Cavite. Current leagues are the Philippine Football League, Copa Paulino Alcantara, the Women’s League and the U15 Boys’ National Championship.

“These are positive times for us especially since Fifa has increased the number of participating teams in the World Cup, from 32 to 48 teams in the Fifa World Cup (beginning 2026) and 24 to 32 teams in the Fifa Women’s World Cup (beginning 2023),” Araneta said. “The  dream of reaching the Fifa World Cup is an inspiring and realistic goal.”

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TAGS: Fédération Internationale de Football Association (Fifa), Gianni Infantino
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