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KIGALI, Rwanda, Nov 17, (AP): FIFA president Gianni Infantino is getting four more years in charge of soccer’s governing body after no candidate stepped up to challenge him. FIFA said Thursday the 52-year-old Swiss lawyer was the only person to enter the race by the time the deadline passed overnight – exactly four months before election day on March 16 in Kigali, Rwanda. Infantino won a five-candidate race in 2016 to replace Sepp Blatter, and was re-elected unopposed in 2019. He’s now set to stay in the job beyond the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Infantino’s upcoming re-election to the $3 million-per-year job may not be his final term in office.
FIFA rules allow him to run again to stay in power for another World Cup cycle until 2031. A quirk of FIFA’s statutes means the first three years of Infantino’s presidency – when he completed an unfinished term started by Blatter – does not count against the 12-year limit agreed to in reforms passed during a prolonged corruption crisis before his first election. Outside of soccer, one political threat to Infantino’s leadership is an investigation by two special prosecutors in Switzerland into his three undocumented meetings with then attorney general Michael Lauber in 2016 and 2017 during American and Swiss federal investigations of soccer officials. It is currently unclear how that case, which is being overseen by the Swiss parliament, is proceeding or how much jurisdiction it has over Infantino as a private citizen who could be accused of having sought an advantage from a public official.
He has denied all wrongdoing. Infantino’s current term in office, which started in June 2019, saw FIFA dip into its $2 billion-plus reserves and oversee emergency legal measures to help stabilize soccer through the COVID- 19 pandemic. The global health crisis almost entirely shut down World Cup qualifying games in 2020. The final tournament in Qatar starts on Sunday. Infantino did not get approval for the biggest idea in the current presidential term – doubling the number of men’s World Cups to every two years in a planned overhaul of the calendar for national teams. That plan was blocked last year by the continental soccer bodies of Europe and South America, UEFA and CONMEBOL, who teamed up to threaten a boycott of a biennial World Cup.