Newly-elected FIFA president Gianni Infantino paid tribute to his disgraced predecessor in the job, Sepp Blatter, for the role he played in establishing a new $140million football museum which opened on Sunday in Zurich.
“It’s a really fine museum which reflects the universality of football. It’s a very good idea of Sepp Blatter’s, a museum which came from his initiative,” he said
Infantino, who was elected to take over from fellow Swiss Blatter in a special election of FIFA associations on Friday, was making his first outing as head of the scandal-tainted organisation.
He was accompanied at the inauguration by FIFA’s acting general secretary Markus Kattner and former Swiss international Stephane Chapuisat, but there was no sign of Blatter who is banned from all football-related activities for six years on corruption charges.
The 79-year-old former supremo’s contract with FIFA officially ended with Infantino’s election late Friday.
“This means he has to leave his official apartment or pay rent,” according to a FIFA source who requested anonymity.
The company car and the salary, whose size was always kept secret, also comes to an end.
Blatter took a particular interest in the museum, which is filled with inter-active games as well as balls, shirts, like one worn by a member of Italy’s 1938 World Cup winning side, and other memorabilia.
It does not, however, mention the turmoil that has beset FIFA over the last nine months leaving dozens of football officials facing US charges over more than $200 million in bribes.
Blatter gets only a minimal mention in the works devoted to football heroics in the new museum.
He is seen alongside pictures of the other FIFA presidents and gets a quick showing in a video, handing over the World Cup to Spain in 2010.
“It’s not a museum about personalities, it’s about what football gives to people around the world,” according to the museum’s chief, Stefan Jost.
Despite Infantino taking over as FIFA chief, Blatter has refused to be completely sidelined by events.
He released a statement congratulating Infantino — who comes from a village in Switzerland close to his own — “from the bottom of my heart” but warning him that he will not have an easy time as world football boss.
“With the adoption of the reform programme, expectations on him will be even higher.
“But I am convinced that my successor will put them in place,” said Blatter.
“With his experience, his capacities, his sense of strategy and diplomacy, he has all the qualities to continue my work and drive FIFA towards stability.”
Blatter, who was banned along with UEFA president Michel Platini in December, still faces a Swiss criminal investigation for mismanagement at FIFA.
He was banned for making a delayed $2 million dollar payment to Platini for which there was no written contract.