Newly elected FIFA president Gianni Infantino of Switzerland raises an arm during a press conference after the second election round during the extraordinary FIFA congress in Zurich, Switzerland, Friday, Feb. 26, 2016. Delegates of the soccer  body FIFA met to elect a new president. (AP Photo/Michael Probst) Newly elected FIFA president Gianni Infantino of Switzerland raises an arm during a press conference after the second election round during the extraordinary FIFA congress in Zurich, Switzerland, Friday, Feb. 26, 2016. Delegates of the soccer body FIFA met to elect a new president. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

ZURICH/CAIRO: FIFA's new president Gianni Infantino yesterday faced the mountainous task of reforming and uniting world football, with a pile of crises from the scandal-ridden Sepp Blatter era needing urgent action. Infantino, an executive at European football confederation UEFA, promised an end to the dark days at FIFA following his convincing election win. But the 45-year-old Swiss-Italian national was immediately met with multiple challenges, as football powerful players including key corporate partners must still be convinced that FIFA can mend its ways.

Infantino will also have to prioritize the interests of developing football nations in Asia and Africa, two continents that publicly backed election runner-up Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa on hopes that a non-European would lead FIFA after Swiss national Blatter's 18-year presidency. "We will work tirelessly, starting with myself," the shaven-headed, multi-lingual new FIFA boss said. "You will be proud of FIFA. You will be proud of what FIFA will do for football."

Infantino said governance reforms passed just hours before his election win were "groundbreaking" and that implementing them would be a priority. They include changes to FIFA's management, limiting Infantino's powers compared to the authority held by Blatter. There will be a 12-year term limit for top officials and salaries will be disclosed. The all-powerful executive committee will be renamed a FIFA council and football's multi-billion dollar business activities will be run separately from football politics.

But there was no decision to create an outside watchdog that has been widely demanded as the only way to solve FIFA's corruption crisis. Top World Cup sponsors like credit-card giant Visa said after the vote that "independent oversight of the reforms" was still the best strategy to ensure real change. Infantino has promised to bring in "independent and respected voices" to FIFA but has not given details. Experts said that corporate partners - who demanded an end to the sleaze that came to characterize the Blatter era - will be watching to see if Infantino's desire to make changes goes beyond rhetoric.

Jeff Thinnes, a US consultant to global corporations on ethics and governance, told AFP that the FIFA vote is "only a start". "Given the culture of FIFA, a very corrupt culture down through the national associations, it is going to be a long slog before what is on paper becomes what is in practice," he said. Infantino downplayed divisions in world football, saying he had won "an election but not a war".

Sheikh Salman, a royal from Bahrain, had been the pre-poll favorite, and his defeat was a blow to the ambitions of Asia and especially the Arab world, where there had been anticipation of a powerful new voice in sport. "The new FIFA needs to become more inclusive and reflect the diversity of world football," the sheikh said after the vote, pledging to work with Infantino. India, a supporter of Sheikh Salman, said it hoped to receive "due importance" under FIFA's new boss. The new FIFA boss has insisted that he was not a European candidate, but "a football candidate" and touted his relationships across the globe.

Arab football chiefs and pundits said the Arab region squandered the chance to help elect their first FIFA president because their two candidates failed to cooperate, leaving the door open for Infantino to triumph. UEFA's Infantino got 88 votes in the first round, three more than Asian Football Confederation (AFC) chief Sheikh Salman of Bahrain, while Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan managed 27 and Frenchman Jerome Champagne won seven.

Sheikh Salman would have had a better chance if his efforts were united with Prince Ali as Infantino won in the second round with 115 of the 207 votes, which was more than the required majority of 104, while Sheikh Salman got 88 and Prince Ali four. "Some countries gave promises but didn't fulfil them. We are all Arabs but unfortunately some support the other party (candidate) and we hope this changes in the future," Bahrain FA President Ali Al-Khalifa said in a television interview. "We as Arabs should unite our efforts and be clear with each other. It appears from the first round that some countries have joined the other party (candidate). We have now to look forward and help FIFA's new president get (the world governing body) out of the current crisis," he added.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) pledged its backing to Sheikh Salman while his AFC said it supported him but it seems some of those countries did not give him their vote. "Africa has fulfilled its promises but it is clear that something happened with Asian countries and this was behind the final result," Sudan FA president Mutasim Jaffar said. "Sheikh Salman was depending heavily on Africa and Asia and the plan was to get 100 votes in the first round. He has to find out what happened to his home (vote)."

This was the second chance for the Arab region to get a FIFA president after Prince Ali lost to Blatter by 133-73 votes in the election last May when Sheikh Salman announced his support for the Swiss incumbent. "Arabs split as usual so a historic chance has been wasted and I think it will not come again," Arab journalist Mustafa Agha tweeted. "Infantino won because the Arabs split. If there was cooperation we could have had an Arab president."

Whilst cooperation between Sheikh Salman and Prince Ali could have helped the Arab cause in the election, they would have had to put aside past differences to achieve it. When Sheikh Salman became AFC president in 2013, he made changes which in effect meant Prince Ali lost his seat as one of Asia's representatives on the FIFA executive committee. This lack of support continued when Sheikh Salman said the AFC would support Blatter against any other candidate in previous elections, including the vote last May.

Despite the failure of the region's candidates to triumph in Friday's vote their efforts were appreciated in the region. "Thank you Sheikh Salman, you were a big competitor... and thank you Prince Ali for your courage. You both have opened the door for all to compete with the west," Qatari sports magazine Estad Al-Doha's editor-in-chief Mahed Al-Khelaifi tweeted. Queen Rania of Jordan also offered her support to Prince Ali, tweeting: "It's not winning that makes a leader, but how committed he is to the game. @AliBinAlHussein you will always be a leading light on the field".