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Infantino hits out at 'FIFA bashing' and 'fake news'

FIFA President Gianni Infantino (C) talks to journalists during a visit to La Polar stadium in Havana, Cuba, April 29, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer/Files
FIFA President Gianni Infantino (C) talks to journalists during a visit to La Polar stadium in Havana, Cuba, April 29, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

By Simon Evans

MANAMA (Reuters) - FIFA President Gianni Infantino took aim at critics of world football's governing body on Thursday, saying the organisation had reformed and was now a victim of "fake news" and "FIFA bashing".

Speaking to the organisation's 67th congress in the Bahraini capital, Infantino, who replaced Sepp Blatter as head of FIFA in 2016, said it was truly transforming itself.

"We are rebuilding FIFA’s reputation after all that happened. We took over the organisation at it's deepest point," said Infantino, adding that there was no room for anyone who wanted to enrich themselves by "abusing football".

Several dozen football officials, mainly from Latin America, were indicted in the United States in 2015 on corruption-related charges, sparking the worst crisis in FIFA's history.

Infantino said criticism of the organisation under his leadership had not been fair, given improved transparency, controls and ethics procedures.

"There is a lot of fake news and alternative facts about FIFA circulating," he said. "FIFA bashing has become a national sport in some countries".

The Swiss administrator also made some barbed comments about some of his critics among governance experts.

"In the past many highly-paid experts, paid millions, have been hired by FIFA to help reform FIFA. Let me ask you, what did they do? They simply rubber stamped a sick and corrupt system.

"Where were all these self-proclaimed gurus and experts? They all miserably failed. I will, we will, not accept good governance lessons from any individuals who miserably failed to protect football," said Infantino.

The FIFA president also thanked "courts all around the world" who had prosecuted corruption cases.

"We need your help and we count on your help," he added.

On Tuesday, FIFA's ruling council opted not to renew the mandates of the two heads of their Ethics Committee with their replacements to be voted in at the congress.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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