By Andrew Warshaw
February 24 – The role of Gianni Infantino in whoever gets over the line to land the top job in African football appears to be gaining more significance by the week.
The FIFA president may not have a vote but as he criss-crosses the continent on a multi-stop tour, Infantino is widely reported as favouring either South African businessman Patrice Motsepe or the Mauritanian Ahmed Yahya for the presidency of the Confederation of African Football at the March 12 election.
That has not been lost on the Ivory Coast’s candidate, former FIFA executive committee member Jacques Anouma who, according to local reports, is trying to rein in speculation about where Infantino’s preference lies by specifically requesting him to pay a visit to his country.
At a recent news conference, Anouma spoke of Infantino “visiting several countries, including those of the other candidates without going through Côte d’Ivoire.”
It is unclear whether Infantino has taken up Anouma’s offer but with the election to succeed Ahmad Ahmad drawing ever closer, the Ivorian candidate knows full well that he needs to step up his campaign now that he can bank on financial support from his government.
Local reports suggest Anouma is about to embark on a last-ditch lobbying effort across the continent.
In the meantime, he is not mincing his words.
“It’s up to Africans to decide. Do they want to put at the head of CAF a federation president in the pay of FIFA or someone who has time to give them,” he was quoted as saying.
While that may be a prevailing view privately amongst many of Africa’s member associations and CAF’s executive committee, publicly and in reality the politics of the votes can take a different course. Anouma’s comments may prove not to be the most discreet remarks in his bid to wrest Infantino’s all-important support away from two of his fellow contenders.
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