February 4 – Having raised a number of eyebrows with comments many perceived as undermining African football, Gianni Infantino carried on where he left off when he addressed members of the International Sports Press Association (AIPS) in Budapest on Monday.
At the weekend, the FIFA president raised the highly contentious proposal that the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) should change to a four-year schedule rather than its current two as part of a total overhaul.
The proposal, floated in Rabat on Saturday, is understood to have antagonised many in the hierarchy of the African Football Confederation but Infantino returned to the subject just 48 hours later.
“We have had some serious problems in Africa and it has to change,” Infantino was quoted as telling AIPS. “It has to change the way of how to do business, it has to take on board the basic elements of good governance.”
“There needs to be proper competition infrastructure. I think it is fair to say that the competitions in Africa are 30-to-40 times less successful than in Europe.”
“I was always told the Africa Cup of Nations is played every two years because it ensured the building of new infrastructure plus it generated revenues. But when you look at the last decades, I don’t see a proliferation of top class African stadiums and in terms of revenue we are miles away. If it is played every four years it makes it more exclusive, it presents a better profile.”
With the profile of CAF president Ahmad Ahmad seriously damaged following a string of misdemeanours, Infantino said FIFA would keeping a close eye on corruption in African football.
“I hope CAF has realised I’m going to be tough on corruption,” he said. “There is hope in Africa and we will pay the arbitrators to avoid corruption. It is not meddling but we want the best for football on the continent and they will be paid by FIFA to avoid influence from governments.
“I want to see several African countries at the cutting edge of the world. Governance has some serious problems in Africa that we want to solve that. The millions of dollars we spend must not go to anyone’s pocket. We want to invest in Africa, not for a president, but for a country: for example the construction of stadiums. Without the infrastructure without the stadiums how you can develop football?”
Infantino also said he would not be against further joint hosting of the World Cup after 2026 which is being staged in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
“I respect the will of the people. If the will of the people will be to change, to be more open, be more inclusive of different parts of the world at the same time maybe we should do it,” he said.
“We still have time. The decision for 2030 will be taken in 2024. For me, as FIFA president, the more bidders we have the happier I am.”
And he expressed support for all referees to introduce the three-step protocol for dealing with racism.
“It is starting to be applied but only in a few countries. I will propose that we make these rules universal and if they are not being applied then FIFA has to intervene – a little like the World Anti-Doping Agency – directly in a country, in the national federation and make sure sanctions are undertaken in the case of racist behaviour.”
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