MEXICO CITY – Gianni Infantino struck an upbeat tone ahead of his first Congress in charge of FIFA, at which football's governing body will try to move on from a major corruption scandal and address other problems dogging the sport around the world.
Infantino was elected as FIFA president in February, charged with steering football out of the crisis in which dozens of football officials from a number of countries indicted in the United States.
The main focus of FIFA's annual Congress, which begins in Mexico on Friday, will be bringing its 209 member football associations up to speed with recent reforms designed to stamp out corruption.
"After going through some uneasy times, I truly believe that the organisation is on the verge of an exciting new era and that we can unite to work towards our common goal of developing football across the globe and at all levels," Infantino said in a statement released by FIFA on Monday.
His leadership must also deal with other problems, including the chronic financial difficulties and poor administration seen in many parts of the world, far from the glitter of competitions like the Champions League and top clubs such as Barcelona.
FIFPro, the world players' union, has estimated that only 75 of national associations manage to run a professional league.
Even where these exist, the union has frequently complained about the treatment of its members, particularly in eastern Europe, saying they are often left unpaid and humiliated when they complain or try to leave.
Jerome Champagne, a rival of Infantino's for the FIFA job, has warned that football risks losing its global appeal as talent drains towards a small number of European clubs.
In Nigeria, a judicial tug-of-war has seen rival factions, one led by FIFA-recognised Amaju Pinnick and another by Chris Giwa, each claiming to control the national football federation.
Amid the bickering, the three-times champions have failed to qualify for the African Nations Cup for the second time in a row, a major failure for the continent's most populous nation.
ian Football Confederation (CBF) meanwhile remains under the presidency of Marco Polo Del Nero, even though he is among those indicted by U.S. prosecutors. Del Nero has denied any wrongdoing.
While the new statutes insist that the national football associations adopt good governance principles, FIFA does not directly control the FAs and has not said clearly how it plans to make them comply.
Reforms adopted in response to the scandal include setting a maximum term limit of 12 years for senior officials and the replacement of FIFA's executive committee with a new FIFA Council which will have a purely strategic role.
The governing body's day-to-day running has been handed to a non-elected FIFA bureau, although a chief executive for it has still not been appointed.
The Council will meet for the first time on Monday and one of its first tasks will be to implement a reform to reduce the number of FIFA committees from 26 to seven.
One of these, a stakeholders' committee that will include representatives from FIFPro, the clubs and leagues, could prove particularly troublesome. Both FIFPro and the clubs have complained they did not have any say in the reforms and welcomed Infantino with some bitter criticism.
The Congress itself will decide on applications for membership from Kosovo and, possibly, Gibraltar, and will also be asked to approve a revised budget for the 2015-2018 cycle to reflect Infantino's electoral promises.
The budget increases the projected revenue for the 2015-2018 cycle upwards from $5 billion to $5.65 billion, which Infantino says will be viable once FIFA has restored its credibility.
Critics say any shortfall would eat into the FIFA's reserves, however, raising yet another doubt about the organisation's future. –Reuters