The Power Politics of Gianni Infantino

The Power Politics of Gianni Infantino

That has not happened. As president, Infantino has overseen the biggest decisions facing the organization while his secretary general, Fatma Samoura, a former United Nations official from Senegal, has largely been marginalized.

Samoura was not made available for interview. But Miguel Maduro, FIFA’s former governance chief, said the secondary role she has assumed is a direct result of Infantino’s having near total discretion on staffing matters.

When Infantino hired Maduro in 2016, the move was hailed as a sign of a reformed FIFA. Infantino tasked Maduro, a former advocate general at the European Court of Justice, with leading an independent governance committee that would, among other things, vet senior officials for FIFA posts.

In the ensuing months, however, that independence caused problems for Infantino. Russian soccer officials complained Maduro’s group had declined to clear a Russian deputy prime minister, Vitaly Mutko, to run for re-election to the FIFA Council. Asia’s soccer confederation balked at his requests to increase the number of women in top positions, and African officials complained when they learned his committee might have had concerns about a confederation election.

Less than a year into his tenure, Maduro was preparing to board a flight to Bahrain for Infantino’s second congress when the FIFA president’s chief of staff called tell him not to bother to attend. His mandate was not being renewed, because “politics” had made his position untenable.

“They feel they are accountable to the political cartel that dominates FIFA but not to the outside world, not to public opinion, not to the media, not to the fans,” Maduro said of Infantino’s leadership team. “Ultimately Infantino’s choice was one of political survival.”

Joseph Weiler, a New York University law professor who was part of Maduro’s team, was among a group of officials who quit in protest. Weiler submitted an ethics complaint against Infantino and other senior officials, charging that they had improperly interfered with the committee’s work. The results of the investigation have not been made public.

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