If there is one man who has had the spotlight directed at him in recent months, it is FIFA president Gianni Infantino (52). The Italian-Swiss football enthusiast has been making headlines ever since the start of the World Cup – perhaps more than the players themselves.
He did so, among other things, when he held a 57-minute long press conference, where the 52-year-old came out harshly against those who have criticized the championship in Qatar, according to The Guardian.
During the press conference, he said, among other things, that he felt like everything from an Arab and African, to gay, disabled and migrant worker.
Furthermore, he described himself as a former victim of bullying. “As a child I was bullied because I had red hair and freckles. Besides, I was Italian,” he said.
It may appear that Infantino’s life has not always been so easy.
Infantino, whose full name is Giovanni Vincenzo Infantino, was born in Switzerland in 1970. His parents were immigrants from the Italian regions of Calabria and Lombardy, and the FIFA president considers himself Italian.
The parents, Maria Minolfi and Vincenzo Infantino, had occupations such as maid, newsstand worker and railway company employee, according to Aftenposten, and did not have particularly much money.
Infantino himself has also said that he was not particularly popular in his childhood. He wasn’t very good at football either.
However, his interest in football grew as he got older, and he quickly started playing football of the track – among other things as an organizer of football tournaments.
Eventually, the football player began to study law at the University of Fribourg, after earning money for his studies himself – by cleaning sleeping compartments on trains and working in a newsstand.
After the studies, things went smoothly, and the road to the top was short. Since 2016, he has been responsible for FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association).
At home, things have also apparently gone well for the 52-year-old. At the start of the 2000s, he met what would become his future wife, Leena Al Ashqar.
Al Ashqar, who is from Lebanon, was working for the Lebanese Football Association at the time. She is far less in the limelight than her husband, but appears both occasionally and often to congratulate her life partner on his achievements.
Father of four
Last year, the couple moved to Doha in Qatar, together with the couple’s four daughters – Shania Serena, Sabrina, Alessia and Dhalia Nora Infantino.
The four daughters lead private lives, and are rarely – if ever – seen in public with their father.
Admittedly, there have been articles about the daughters, including when there was drama during the football World Cup in Russia in 2018. That is when the couple’s youngest daughter, Dhalia, became acutely ill.
Private illness drama
According to The Sun, which referred to the Russian press, it was claimed that the then seven-year-old daughter was rushed to the children’s ward at the hospital in St. Petersburg.
Dhalia is said to have had severe abdominal pain, and was quickly operated on for appendicitis. Infantino’s wife is said to have been with her daughter all the way, while the FIFA boss himself was in Sochi to watch the World Cup match between Russia and Croatia.
However, he is said to have flown to St. Petersburg as soon as the match was over, to be with his family.
The Sun also writes that he must have been very grateful to the hospital staff.