February 17 – With politicking in the election of a new president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in full flow, FIFA President Gianni Infantino has begun a tour of African nations with Mauritania his first stop.
Mauritania is currently hosting the CAF U20 Africa Cup of Nations, and its football federation president Ahmed Yahya (pictured right, Infantino left) has been cleared by FIFA to stand in the CAF presidential election. Alongside South Africa’s Patrice Motsepe, he is reportedly one of FIFA’s two favoured candidates to take the presidential role. They are up against long-serving CAF officials Ivorian Jacques Anouma and Senegal FA president Augustin Senghor.
Africa has been a key supporter of Infantino under president Ahmad Ahmad who is appealing against a 5-year FIFA ban for corruption at CAS, but is still recognised as CAF president pending the outcome of the appeal and still hopes to stand in the CAF election.
While FIFA has inevitably – if somewhat late – had to remove Ahmad via its Ethics sanction, they are still keen (and it is the core of Infantino’s presidential powerbase) to control the hearts and minds of Africa’s membership.
Reports from Africa suggest that the Africans’ hearts aren’t fully behind Infantino whose organisation’s dealings in Africa over commercial and TV representation, as well as pushing calendar change of its major events, has left a trail of financial uncertainty. However, it is finance and its manipulation that will more likely focus African football presidents’ minds rather than governance principles when it comes to their presidential vote.
Infantino opened the Mauritanian leg of his tour with a trip with Yahya to the Stade Municipal de Nouadhibou to officially inaugurate the venue which features a new artificial turf pitch part-installed with FIFA Forward financial support.
Stade Municipal de Nouadhibou, along with Nouakchott’s Cheikh Boidiya Stadium and Stade Olympique, is hosting the CAF U20 Africa Cup of Nations, which runs from February 14 to March 6, and has been supported by money from FIFA’s Covid Relief Fund.
“We have enjoyed some impressive youth football in a modern and well-equipped stadium which is a very good and concrete example of how FIFA Forward funds are used to develop football all over the world, and particularly in Africa,” said Infantino.
“FIFA is very proud that the FIFA Forward programme was used to invest in the new Stade Municipal de Nouadhibou which and is an excellent setting for the CAF U20 Africa Cup of Nations. I compliment the FFRIM and its President Ahmed Yahya, and also CAF, on staging this competition especially given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.”
Yahya acknowledged the importance of FIFA’s financial support saying: “This facility, both the stadium and the technical centre, are important facilities for the development of football in Mauritania, and I would like to thank FIFA for helping to make this project come to life through FIFA Forward.”
Infantino’s African trip will see him meet with several heads of state and as well as African Union Chairperson Félix Tshisekedi in Ethiopia.
CAF will elect its new president March 12.
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