South Sudan shows loyalty to Infantino; Nigeria’s Pinnick co-opted into FIFA’s power play

By Samindra Kunti

April 14 – South Sudan has once again declared its love for Gianni Infantino, becoming the first African FA to endorse the FIFA president for re-election.

The South Sudanese are endorsing Infantino as their candidate before they have seen any potential challengers to Infantino and their manifesto, and before a date has been set for the next electoral Congress.

The early announcement for Infantino beggars the question, what if a candidate emerged who could promise African and South Sudanese football a deal better than Infantino has been able to deliver them, perhaps even a candidate from the continent itself that can return the governance of the game firmly back into African hands?

The announcement also comes a day after Insideworldfootball revealed that FIFA’s administration had stepped into the election process by sending a templated letter to member associations, followed up by phone calls, telling them to fill in the blanks in the template to show their endorsement of Infantino and giving their pledge that they would not support another candidate.

See: Another rigged election? FIFA administration get a brazenly fast start at keeping Infantino in office

At a news conference in Juba, South Sudan Football Association (SSFA) Augustino Madout said his federation backed Infantino again because he had been a longstanding ally of football in the country.

“Infantino has stood with us even before he become president and when he became president, he supported us with the current works going on at the stadium so there will be no reason for us not to stand with him this time that’s why we chose to endorse him,” said Madout.

It’s not the first time that the SFA has put its weight behind the Swiss football administrator. The SSFA, and its president Chabur Gor Alei, publicly supported Infantino’s 2016 FIFA presidential campaign.  The world federation later banned Alei for a decade for misappropriation of funds and bribery.

Madout’s endorsement will be music to Infantino’s ear.  At the recent congress – and to muted applause – he announced that he will stand for re-election next year. Behind the scenes, the FIFA supremo is already manoeuvring to ensure enough votes come his way for a third term.  With 54 votes, Africa is once again a top priority for Infantino.

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Nigerian Football Federation president (NFF) Amaju Pinnick has been offered a seat on the powerful, ‘newly established FIFA Working Group on Normalization Committees’. In a letter CAF secretary-general and former Zurich stormtrooper Veron Mosengo-Omba expressed his confidence in Pinnick suggesting that his “nomination to this working group will positively contribute to the pertinent, and often essential, role played by Normalisation Committees in support of federations and towards the fulfillment of good governance practices.”

In 2021, Pinnick was elected to the FIFA Council, defeating the incumbent Walter Nyamilandu of Malawi. It is believed that Pinnick, a staunch Infantino ally, is canvassing support for the FIFA president in Africa, circulating the template letter, to his colleagues.

In power at the NFF since 2014, Pinnick is hardly been a beacon of good governance having frequently been accused of corruption. Recently, the Super Eagles of Nigeria failed to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar, prompting the local writers guild to call for his resignation.

“The leadership of the current NFF has ridden on the back of Nigerian football to get to top positions in world football governing body, FIFA, to the detriment of the game,” said the guild.

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