By Andrew Warshaw
July 26 – Gianni Infantino may be embroiled in allegations about ethics violations but away from the firing line he is making it his business to solicit the goodwill of those who voted for him to become FIFA president.
On a brief trip to Nigeria, Infantino has revisited his controversial idea of expanding the World Cup to 40 teams and says Africa should have two of those extra spots.
Infantino has been accompanied by his new secretary-general Fatma Samoura, who until her appointment in May, headed the UN Development Programme in the West African country.
“I believe for the 2026 World Cup, we should have 40 teams and out of the additional eight teams we should have at least two more African teams,” Infantino told reporters in Abuja. “This is what I declared during my campaign.”
Infantino couldn’t resist lacing his remarks with a veiled rebuke against critics who accuse him of persuing a quest for power by fair means or foul.
“As you know I’m not a dictator but a democratically elected FIFA president, so I have to speak to everyone and listen to everyone as well,” he added.
During his visit, Infantino reportedly met with 18 federation presidents across Africa as well as attending the final of a national youth tournament and said he was determined to fulfil his election pledges.
“The first was the reforms and they have been implemented,” he said though those who follow FIFA’s narrative know this is not yet the case on a practical basis. “The second is for us to invest more for football development. I (also) promised that the secretary general shouldn’t be a European as it was in the core history of FIFA. The secretary general is African and this is good for Africa.”
Meanwhile, much intrigue surrounds whether the ethics committee has opened an investigation into Infantino’s conduct. An announcement was due to be made earlier this week, according to Swiss media reports, after Infantino was apparently interviewed by ethics officials. But so far there has been no firm indication as to whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed.
Infantino is due in London this weekend to attend the 50th anniversary celebrations of England winning the World Cup and would find it hard to avoid a media circus if and when he is sanctioned by ethics officials.
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