Sepp Blatter praises Gianni Infantino for diplomatic skills
Sepp Blatter said newly elected FIFA president Gianni Infantino is a worthy successor to continue his work.
Blatter praised Infantino's "experience, expertise, strategic and diplomatic skills" in a statement, saying the 45-year-old UEFA general secretary "has all the qualities to continue my work and to stabilise FIFA again'' after a corruption crisis.
Infantino will complete the rest of Blatter's presidential term, serving through May 2019.
The 79-year-old official was banned by the FIFA ethics committees along with Infantino's now former boss, UEFA president Michel Platini.
Infantino, a lawyer and sports administrator who joined European football's governing body in 2000 and rose through the ranks, became FIFA's first new president in 18 years.
Blatter, who is serving a six-year ban from football, announced his resignation last June following a corruption scandal that engulfed the organisation in May.
The warm congratulations is a notable change of tone for Blatter, who early in the campaign sniped at Infantino despite the fact they come from neighboring Swiss villages. Infantino was born in Brig, Switzerland, six miles from Blatter's hometown of Visp.
Infantino was only 5 years old when Blatter joined FIFA in 1975. He will become the ninth president of the sport's governing body. Friday's vote marked the first time the FIFA presidential election had a second ballot since 1974.
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said he is looking forward to working with Infantino.
Bach congratulated Infantino, saying: "at this difficult period for football I wish him all the best for the implementation of the reforms approved by the FIFA extraordinary congress."
Bach added: "At the same time I am looking forward to a good and constructive cooperation for the sake of sport."
Former world player of the year Luis Figo ran a presidential campaign against Blatter in last year's election, only to pull out claiming it was "not a normal electoral act." The Portuguese tweeted on Friday:
Former Manchester United striker Diego Forlan, ex-Italy goalkeeper Francesco Toldo and former Tottenham forward Mido were others to congratulate Infantino, as was England legend Gary Lineker.
Wish @Gianni_2016 all the best. He's got one hell of a job on his hands but seems a decent chap. Needs a sizeable new broom.- Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) February 26, 2016
Numerous football associations sent their congratulations, as did U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati.
FIFPro, the world players' union, took a "dim view" of the election as it leaves Infantino "entrenched in a governance structure and culture that is open to corrupt practices."
FIFPro president Philippe Piat said: "The reforms entrench and reward the 209 member associations and six confederations despite their complicity in the corruption and scandals that continue to plague football.
"Key stakeholders -- including the players, fans, leagues and clubs -- remain marginalised, preventing FIFA from being accountable.
"We desperately need these checks and balances, a modern and inclusive FIFA, not a continuation of FIFA's monopoly on power. Another, more sweeping wave of reform is urgently required."
The European Club Association congratulated Infantino, with its chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge leading the applause.
"Everyone, the clubs, as well as the national and international associations, bears responsibility for the players," Rummenigge said. "We have reached a point where we cannot further burden the players, but need to relieve them. FIFA must fulfil this responsibility for the health of the players."