Anouma gets his Infantino powwow, as FIFA boss lays foundations in Mali

February 26 – African football’s presidential candidate Jacques Anouma has been granted his wish to meet with Gianni Infantino as the race hots up ahead of the vote on March 12.

Anouma expressed disappointment earlier this week that Infantino had met with other candidates but not himself and invited the FIFA president to visit his native Ivory Coast.

That wasn’t possible so instead, as the FIFA president wrapped up a trip to Morocco – where the ballot takes place month – during his tour of Africa, Anouma got his chance to bend the FIFA president’s ear.

No details have emerged of their conversation but it can only add to the tension of what is set to be the most fiercely contested election for the presidency of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in the bid to replace Ahmad Ahmad.

“I was very happy to have the chance to discuss with Jacques Anouma his plans for the future of African football and how can FIFA, CAF and the African member associations work together, hand in hand, to bring African football to the very top level it deserves to be,” said Infantino, who has now met with all four candidates.

Infantino would be unlikely to have received a warm welcome in the Ivory Coast after FIFA’s bureau imposed a Normalisation Committee in the country last December after a presidential election debacle that saw Didier Drogba, a favourite son and preferred candidate of FIFA tried to get on to the ballot sheet, but was barred locally. The Ivory Coast federation said Drogba had no involvement or shown any interest in the country’s football since his playing days.

Political ambition

One country where Infantino was welcomed by government was Mali where he held meetings with the head of state, Bah N’Daw, the Minister of Youth & Sports, Mossa Ag Attaher, and even managed to squeeze in time for officials from the Malian Football Association (FEMAFOOT), led by FEMAFOOT President, Mamoutou Touré.

“I am delighted to be here today, in a country that has experienced difficult times, and which is now on the right track once again,” the FIFA President said. “Unity is crucial for the future of this country and football can play its part in this process, because football has the unique power to bring people together, boys and girls, men and women. Mali has the potential to shine in Africa and also at a world level and FIFA is here to support where needed.”

Infantino laid a foundation stone on the site of the future National Technical Centre which is being built with support from the FIFA Forward Programme.

“This new centre will provide essential training and development facilities to ensure that Malian footballers can reach their full potential. I am sure that in laying the foundations of this new centre, we are also laying the foundations of renewed success here in Mali, as players from all backgrounds and beliefs will come together here to lift this great nation to the highest heights of African and world football.”

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