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Three Questions With Alexi Lalas

MLS All-Star Game - Legends Game

HARRISON, NJ - JULY 25: Former player Alexi Lalas looks on during the MLS All-Star - Legends Game on July 25, 2011 at Harrison Fields in Harrison, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls)

Getty Images for New York Red Bu

This week, Gianni Infantino granted his first English language interview since taking the reigns as FIFA President in February. The interviewer: none other than former denim-clad USMNT star and FOX Sports analyst Alexi Lalas. Over the course of 20 minutes, Alexi asked Gianni about the Panama Papers, gender equity, Qatar and the 2026 World Cup bidding process. You can watch the five-part interview on FOX Soccer’s YouTube channel. In this edition of Three Questions, we ask Alexi about his prep for the interview what Infantino was like off camera, and whether the experience made him more confident in FIFA moving forward.

MiB: Describe how you prepared for the interview. Walk us through your process.

AL: We didn’t find out about the interview until a few days before it happened. I read anything and everything I possibly could about Infantino leading up to it. My preparation for the more than 10 straight hours I spent on-air covering FIFA’s presidential election in February certainly helped. The fact is, when it comes to FIFA and potential questions, there is plenty of meat on that bone. We had 20 minutes for this interview, and it’s impossible to satisfy everyone with a line of questioning. But I wanted to get to the core questions that appeal to as many people as possible. Topics like transparency and change, what is happening in the women’s game, Qatar. I should add that I had a tremendous amount of help from the research team here at FOX Sports. They made me look good, and I need all the help I can get.

MiB: Infantino, as one would expect, appears relatively convivial throughout the interview. Can you describe what he was like when the cameras were off? Did you get a sense of how he travels? Was he with an entourage?

AL: It was just him and one person. He was on time. He was pleasant, cordial and relaxed. But I did sense that the stakes of this job are starting to dawn on him. And I don’t necessarily mean that in a negative way. He’s traveled around quite a bit since taking over. I got the impression he’s beginning to realize the road ahead is filled with pressure and potential in equal measure.

MiB: You pressed Infantino on several important issues, including equal World Cup prize money for men and women. You asked him three times before he told you, “There’s not a straightforward answer to this.” As an interviewer, when do you come to the realization that he is just not going to answer this question and decide to move on? Were you frustrated by what he did not say?

AL: I’m still new to these types of interviews. But it is my responsibility to ask the questions that people want answered. I had no control over whether he would answer my questions or not. In instances that he did not answer, it was my responsibility to follow up. In the end, if he didn’t answer, it wasn’t because I did not give him the opportunity to.

MiB: Last month, you told your FOX Sports colleague Colin Cowherd that while this year’s presidential election was a seminal moment for FIFA, the organization remained ripe for corruption. Did this interview change that view in any way, shape or form? Did it change your perception of Infantino? What was your one big takeaway from this interview?

AL: In Wednesday’s Champions League post-show, I said that the President of FIFA doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt. The burden of proof of change is squarely on FIFA. It is up to them to prove there has been change and actual transparency at the organization. Mr. Infantino is a smart man. But that doesn’t make me feel any more confident that change is inevitable. At this point, we can only take solace when concrete change is made. Until then, I will reserve judgement.