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FIFA President Holds an Unprecedented Meeting in South Africa While Resistance Intensifies for CAF President Prior to Elections

In what is an “unprecedented summit” involving FIFA, the world football governing body president, Gianni Infantino is this week meeting more than 50 African football association presidents in Johannesburg.

Officials on Sunday said the 54 African member countries led by each representative have been invited to a day-long executive summit with Infantino to discuss issues involving the game and clarify on FIFA’s plans to expand the World Cup as well as future developmental strategies.

The summit is the first of its kind where FIFA will deal directly with all the leaders of African football.

Organizers told Reuters that the member countries will be broken down into two groups of about 25 association presidents who will meet the president and other FIFA officials on Tuesday, with the same expected for the remaining members the following day.

In the past, association presidents only got together during the annual FIFA and CAF Congresses.

Last July, newly elected Infatino who plans to change the face of the sport kicked off his plans when he met about 20 association presidents in Nigeria and discussed the progress of the sport in Africa, with focus on CAF President Issa Hayatou whose long tenure has come under fire along with members of his executive committee.

The current meetings are being held behind closed doors followed by Infantino’s visit to Harare on Thursday when Zimbabwe Football Association President, Philip Chiyangwa will host a birthday celebration.

Chiyangwa has publicly voiced his criticism towards Hayatou’s regime and pledged his full support for the incumbent’s opponent, Ahmad of Madagascar, in next month’s presidential election.

However, 70-year-old Hayatou is seeking another term in office for a third decade but a strong opposition in Ahmad – a former government minister who uses just one name – will intensify the proceedings to be held in Addis Ababa on March 16.

More so, Chiyangwa’s invitation to various African football administrators to travel from Johannesburg to Harare, seeks to threaten Hayatou’s chances at another regime as the former seeks to stir up support for Ahmad.

Hayatou responded in an exchange of letters recently published by the local media where he threatened to impose sanctions on Chiyangwa, should the latter go ahead with the meeting, saying he had no right to call such a gathering.

But in Chiyangwa’s defense, the wealthy businessman – who personally financed the bankrupt Zimbabwe Football Association – in a response merely stated that the intention of his invitation, is to celebrate his birthday and his election as President of the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations, a regional body made up of 14 countries.

However, Infantino’s visit to Harare presents as a tactical move to cement support for Hayatou’s opponent.

Last year, in what might have been a favorable win, Hayatou and CAF formally endorsed the candidacy of Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa who lost to Infantino in the FIFA presidential elections.



Featured photo: FIFA President, Gianni Infantino in Doha, Qatar February 16, 2017. Infatino is currently in South Africa directly meeting with African football association presidents. (REUTERS)

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