January 31 – The Confederation of African Football (CAF) and several African FA presidents have came out in support of FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s controversial speech at the Council of Europe last week when he suggested the staging of biennial World Cups would provide a solution to the African migrant crisis.
His comments were met with barrage of ridicule worldwide from commentators, human rights organisations, NGOs and fans, from newspapers to social media.
CAF, however, has expressed support for Infantino saying in a statement late on Friday that “Dr Patrice Motsepe received cellphone calls yesterday from numerous football Presidents of African nations supporting the speech that FIFA President Gianni Infantino delivered at the Council of Europe on Wednesday 26 January 2022; as the speech was in line with previous CAF resolutions”.
The statement went on to say that “Several commentators, unfortunately, seem to have misunderstood and misinterpreted President Infantino’s speech. He stated that football is one of the tools that should contribute to the economic and social development and upliftment of many Africans and also to building a better future and dignity amongst many people on the African Continent. President Infantino did not say that the FIFA World Cup every 2 years will stop Africans from crossing the Mediterranean Sea”.
Word for word the CAF statement is correct. What Infantino actually said is: “We need to find ways to include the whole world to give hope to Africans so that they don’t need to cross the Mediterranean in order to find maybe a better life but, more probably, death in the sea. We need to give opportunities, to give dignity. Not by charity but by allowing the rest of the world to participate. Maybe the World Cup every two years is not the answer. We discuss it.”
Immediately after his statement social media, not surprisingly, erupted. FIFA reacted on Twitter saying that its president’s remarks had been taken out of context. Infantino made no comment or clarification of his words.
CAF was the first and to date has been the only confederation to endorse Zurich’s proposed biennial revolution. CAF boss Motsepe has been a close and generally reliable ally of Infantino, whose help was fundamental in getting the South African billionaire elected by acclamation in the confederation’s presidential elections in 2021.
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