U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati congratulated Infantino's victory without saying whom
U.S. Soccer voted for, but Gulati was seen huddling with Infantino throughout the break between the two rounds.
Sheikh Salman's camp had expressed optimism it had more than enough votes from an Africa-Asia bloc, but it fell apart, signaling the end of the FIFA bloc system as we know it.
It was the first FIFA presidential election that went to the second round since Brazilian Joao Havelange beat Stanley Rous in 1974.
Infantino grew up in Brig, Switzerland, five miles from Blatter's hometown of Visp. Every FIFA president has been European except Havelange with the very European name of Jean-Marie Faustin Godefroid de Havelange (his parents were Belgian).
The call for a non-European leader was powerful in a game increasingly dominated by a small elite of European clubs, but Sheikh Salman fell short in swaying enough voters to go with him. There was a strong ABS -- "Anyone But Salman" -- element in opposition to Sheikh Salman whose politics were considered more in line with the crony system Blatter used to stay in office for four-plus terms. He -- and his lawyers -- vigorously defended allegations of having had a role in abuse of pro-democracy protesters in Bahrain in 2011 and did not seem to be a major issue in the race.
Sheikh Salman has strongly denied claims about his role in the Arab Spring protests of 2011 when he was Bahrain's soccer federation president.
Infantino, who ran for president of his local club at the age of 18, promising his mother would wash the team's uniforms if he won, had been a placeholder, entering the race as the UEFA candidate if Platini could not sort out his troubles with FIFA's ethics committee. Indeed, Platini was suspended for eight years in December and withdrew from the face in January when it became clear he'd be unable to finish the appeals process before the election.
Infantino, who spoke in six languages in his pre-election address Friday at the Hallenstadion in Zurich, ran on a platform of increasing payments to all of FIFA's members.
"The money of FIFA is your money," he said. "Not the money of the FIFA president."
Skeikh Salman said he'd focus on helping smaller federations, offering a more conservative approach to
FIFA's spending plans.
FIFA is facing a shortfall of $550 million from its target for the 2015-18 cycle because no new World Cup sponsors have been signed since Blatter announced plans to step down in June 2015 and it has been reeling from legal expenses believed to be $10 million a month as it works with U.S. and Swiss authorities to investigate corruption within the organization.
“I want to be the president of all of you," Infantino said. "I travelled through the globe and I will continue to do this. I want to work with all of you to restore and rebuild a new era where we can put football in the centre of the stage,” Infantino told the delegates after his victory. Fifa has gone through sad times, moments of crisis. But those times are over. We need to implement the reforms, we need to have good governance and transparency. But we also need to have respect. We will regain this respect by hard work and dedication, so we can again concentrate on the wonderful game of football.”
It was reported that Blatter had met with Infantino at Christmas and gave him some election tips.
"I congratulate Gianni Infantino sincerely and warmly on his election as the new president," Blatter said in a statement. "With his experience, expertise, strategic and diplomatic skills he has all the qualities to continue my work and to stabilize FIFA again."