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Gianni Infantino set to get IFA's backing in Fifa election

By Steven Beacom

Published 25/02/2016

New surroundings: Michael O’Neill welcomes Sinn Fein MLA Caral Ni Chuilin to the new Windsor Park yesterday
New surroundings: Michael O’Neill welcomes Sinn Fein MLA Caral Ni Chuilin to the new Windsor Park yesterday

IFA President Jim Shaw has revealed that Northern Ireland football's governing body is 'likely' to vote for Uefa general secretary Gianni Infantino in tomorrow's Fifa Presidential election in Zurich.

The congress is taking place after Sepp Blatter announced in June that he was moving aside following 18 years as Fifa President. His announcement came at a time when Fifa was caught up in a corruption scandal.

Yesterday Blatter and suspended Uefa President Michel Platini failed with appeals against bans from all football-related activities, though they had the suspension reduced from eight to six years.

The IFA will be represented in Zurich by President Shaw, Chief Executive Patrick Nelson and Vice-President David Martin, no stranger to controversy himself.

Martin, expected to be the next IFA President, was forced to leave the Association in 2010 for his part in the sacking of Chief Executive Howard Wells.

Martin failed suitability tests to return before the IFA voted to remove such assessments paving the way for his comeback.

Infantino is the favourite ahead of other candidates Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, Tokyo Sexwale and Jerome Champagne.

IFA President Shaw said: "It is likely to be Gianni Infantino, though we will listen to all five candidates. I look at this as not about one individual who can transform Fifa - it is bigger than that. Fifa as a whole has to transform from a governance and organisation point of view."

Meanwhile, Minister Caral Ni Chuilin hailed the 'major transformation' of the new Windsor Park as she joined manager Michael O'Neill at the stadium.

O'Neill fulfilled the dreams of fans by inspiring the team to qualify for the Euro 2016 finals while Ni Chuilin, in her own way, has been a driving force behind the re-development of Windsor.

On a visit yesterday to the IFA's new headquarters and offices, which are located in the East Stand of Windsor, Ni Chuilin was delighted to see O'Neill and how the stadium construction is going.

O'Neill, as revealed by the Belfast Telegraph this week, is to receive a new £2m four-year deal.

The new IFA offices are part of the £32.25m Windsor Park redevelopment, £28.25m of which has been funded by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL).

Once the new Kop Stand is erected, after it was demolished last year, an 18,000 capacity state of the art Windsor Park should be ready for the start of the World Cup qualifying campaign in September.

Sinn Fein MLA Ni Chuilin, who will leave her post later this year and has attended Northern Ireland games at Windsor, said: "There has been a major transformation since I cut the first sod for the redevelopment in May 2014. With the greatly enhanced facilities, and increased capacity, more and more patrons will be able to enjoy the on-field action in excellent surroundings.

"I wish the IFA every success moving forward."

Belfast Telegraph

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