By Paul Nicholson
December 11 – Addressing the CAF General Assembly today, FIFA president Gianni Infantino spoke of a priority within global football to “project” Africa on the world stage. It was his second Congress address, having spoken to the AFC earlier in the week.
In an speech that banged the drum for Africa’s potential he even floated the idea of a pan-African league that would keep the continent’s talent in Africa rather than see it endlessly drift into Europe and European teams.
“In two years we have the World Cup which will of course be the best (place to showcase talent)… but look ahead and in 2026 we will double the participation …to 9.5 (teams) almost 10, maybe 10,” said Infantino.
“We want Africa to play a role as a protagonist (as opposed to just participants). The work to do that starts now. We want African teams to start a the top,” he continued.
Almost referring to the recent role FIFA had in running the confederation that was ended by CAF’s executive committee, Infantino said: “Co-operation between FIFA and CAF is crucial. We need to work on national team competitions and now make them better.”
Noticeably more comfortable addressing his African federation audience than his Asian one, he repeated a thread that was also in his AFC address, saying he wanted to see more nations capable of winning the World Cup and the Club World Cup with more competitive African teams.
To achieve this will require investment in infrastructure. “In the last five years FIFA has invested $500 million in development projects, in more than 300 infrastructure projects…we have to focus on how we use this, with new competitions…and academies across the continent.”
Returning to his theme of more competitive international football and breaking the dominance of world football’s old guard, he said: “My mission as your president is to make football truly global and Africa has to play a central role. There should not just be 10 countries in one or two continents or 10 clubs in one continent to be the best for all time…(I want to see) at least 50 clubs and 50 associations who can compete with a realistic chance of winning.
“We have to bring everyone else to the top and why shouldn’t Africa be at the top with the talent we see shining every week.”
Talking directly to the national association support that underpins his power base as the president of the world game, he said: “I believe in Africa. I count on Africa. You can count on me always to bring Africa to the top.”
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