MOSCOW (AP) — The Latest at the World Cup, including the FIFA Congress vote for the 2026 hosting rights, (all times local):
FIFA President Gianni Infantino says under his watch football’s governing body has transformed from “clinically dead as an organization” to being “alive and well.”
Infantino tells member federations that FIFA is now “full of joy and passion with a vision for its future.”
The Swiss lawyer was elected in February 2016, nine months after American and Swiss federal prosecutors unsealed sweeping investigations of bribery and corruption linked to senior FIFA officials.
Infantino’s speech at the annual congress of 211 members signals the next presidential election period starting.
The next FIFA election is June 5 next year in Paris. Infantino, who succeeded Sepp Blatter, is yet to confirm his candidacy for a new four-year term.
Infantino says FIFA now has “absolute transparency” in its finances, with more than $6.1 billion income for the 4-year commercial cycle tied to the World Cup in Russia.
This was achieved “despite the worst crisis FIFA has experienced,” he says.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to speak to global soccer leaders before the vote to select the host of the 2026 World Cup.
Putin is scheduled to enter the central Moscow conference hall at around 11 a.m. local time (0800 GMT), before more than 200 national football federations choose between Morocco and the joint United States-Canada-Mexico bid.
Eight years ago at the last World Cup hosting vote, Putin flew in to Zurich to host a news conference celebrating Russia winning the right to stage the 2018 tournament.
Putin should also attend Thursday’s opening game, when Russia plays Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter is claiming credit for Morocco not being eliminated by inspectors as a candidate to host the 2026 World Cup, allowing the North African nation to take on the joint bid from the United States, Mexico and Canada in Wednesday’s vote.
Blatter, who was ousted from power at FIFA in 2015 over financial misconduct, has publicly backed the Morocco bid.
He says “I was fighting for Morocco and for Africa because at a certain time (FIFA) wanted to eliminate Morocco before going to the vote, and now, they are at the vote and I think it’s a victory also of my intervention, especially.”
Morocco was scored 2.7 out of 5 by FIFA’s inspection task force, which marked the North America bid a 4 in the report last month. Morocco would have been disqualified if it had scored lower than 2.
In April, Blatter had tweeted: “Just recall a fundamental principal in FIFA: Decision taken in 2011: the congress shall decide on the attribution of the World Cup 2026 – and not any sub-committee or task-force. Each candidate must have the right to make a presentation at the congress.”
FIFA is preparing to choose between Morocco and a joint North American bid to host the 2026 World Cup.
More than 200 national football federations are to set to vote at around midday local time in Moscow (0900 GMT) at their annual meeting one day before the 2018 World Cup kicks off.
FIFA member must pick between the financial security of the United States-Canada-Mexico bid where all venues are ready, and a Moroccan bid that needs to build or renovate all 14 stadiums for a 48-team tournament.
Mexico has twice hosted the World Cup, in 1970 and 1986, the U.S. hosted in 1994, while Morocco has lost in four previous bid campaigns.
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