September 21 – FIFA president Gianni Infantino has blamed the slowdown in the FIFA-led reforms of the African Confederation of Football (CAF) on the coronavirus pandemic.
“We had very close contacts with CAF in the second part of last year and the beginning of this year,” said Infantino at a news conference following the 70th FIFA Congress that was held exclusively online.
“Our secretary-general Fatma [Samoura] together with a small team of FIFA administration staff was in Cairo. A series of reform proposals has been tabled. We went to participate in a conference in Morocco in February where this was discussed with all the member associations, not only in terms of good governance, but also in terms of competitions and what should be done. Obviously, when then Covid came in, this has blocked a bit everything.”
Samoura had been parachuted in by FIFA last year following a number of controversies at the heart of African football’s leadership, including investigations into CAF president Ahmad, who faced accusations of sexual harassment and bribery, as well as claims of personal and financial impropriety.
But in February, CAF’s executive committee voted against renewing Samoura’s mandate as the General delegate for the continent. At the time, FIFA came out in defence of what it perceived to be Samoura’s achievements, pointing at enhanced financial controls, increased salaries for staff and new ethics structures. However, with both Infantino and Samoura alienated by a large part of the CAF constituency, it remains to be seen how the latter reformed the African game.
Infantino however struck a confident tone, arguing that the reform process is ongoing. He said: “CAF is working on these reforms. A few of them have been implemented bey them. A few more of them I hope will be implemented as well in the future. We are working together in this respect.”
“It is a process that was a little bit stopped by the pandemic…but I hope that we can work together again in a more concrete manner because CAF and African football is very important to us,” he continued.
“We have decided for 2026 to almost double the number of African teams for the World Cup from 5 to 9.5 because we need to give them more opportunities, but with more opportunity also comes reform. This is a process and we are committed to that process. It took us a bit of time to clean up FIFA. There is still work to be done. We are putting our experience as well at the disposal of all those who need it. We are working and we will continue to work with CAF to make sure African football can really move to the next level.”
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1603328484labto1603328484ofdlr1603328484owedi1603328484sni@o1603328484fni1603328484