By Andrew Warshaw
March 5 – With exactly one week to go before African football chooses its next leader, FIFA president Gianni Infantino has defended his recent tour of the Continent to meet with the candidates, denying he has in any way been meddling in the election process.
The race to take over as Confederation of African Football president from the disgraced Ahmad Ahmad has become embroiled in alleged deal-making, with Infantino widely reported to favour South African businessman Patrice Motsepe among the four contenders.
In recent weeks Infantino has conducted a whistle-stop tour of the region meeting all the contenders at some point on his travels, a point that was raised when he appeared at today’s virtual press conference following the annual meeting of the International FA Board.
Asked to justify his trip, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, Infantino told reporters it was his responsibility to promote good relations among the African federations.
“FIFA is a responsible organisation ….and acting responsibly means visiting associations,” Infantino said. “Africa has an important role in football.”
Unconfirmed reports continue to suggest that two of the candidates, Senegal’s Augustin Senghor and Mauritania’s Ahmed Yahya, will stand down to allow Motsepe a clearer path to the top job in exchange for being offered CAF vice-presidencies.
But Infantino shot down any suggestion that he had directly or indirectly played a role in whoever gets elected on March 12.
“It is a democratic process,” he said. “It is no secret CAF has been facing some difficult times recently so it was an opportunity to speak with everyone to try and help African football.”
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