Wednesday,13 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1314, (6 - 12 October 2016)
Wednesday,13 December, 2017
Issue 1314, (6 - 12 October 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Two-seater

In Cairo, the new FIFA president said he wanted a World Cup of 40 countries, including two from Africa, reports Inas Mazhar

Infantino
Infantino
Al-Ahram Weekly

Newly-elected FIFA President Gianni Infantino has called for two more African countries to participate in future World Cups.

“It is my wish that a 40-team World Cup will have at least two more slots for Africa. CAF must support FIFA to make this possible,” Infantino, who was elected FIFA president in February following the removal of Sepp Blatter on charges of corruption, said.

Infantino was speaking in Cairo during an extra-congress general assembly of the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

The World Cup currently has 32 teams with Africa guaranteed five places. Europe has the most places, with 13.

Infantino has stated his support for a 40-team World Cup starting in 2026.

“The wind of reform is blowing and with the support of all we can be on the right track,” said the Italian-Swiss Infantino.

During his visit to Cairo, Infatino and his general-secretary Fatma Samoura were received by Egypt’s Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, Youth and Sports Minister Khaled Abdel-Aziz, CAF President Eissa Hayatou and the newly-elected president of the Egyptian Football Association Hani Abu Rida.

The FIFA president also paid a special visit to the headquarters of the Egyptian Football Association where he was met by Abu Rida, who is also a FIFA Executive committee member, and his board of directors as well as the staff.

Before the Congress met, CAF’s Executive Committee held its own meeting at its headquarters in the 6 October district in Cairo. The upcoming Africa Cup of Nations to be held in Gabon in January next year was the urgent topic on top of the agenda, especially with the latest political and security turmoil in the host country.

A delegation from the Local Organising Committee of the Total Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Gabon 2017, led by its High Commissioner Christian Kerangall made a presentation to the members of the CAF Organising Committee for the Africa Cup of Nations, on the state of progress of preparations for the final tournament scheduled from 14 January to 5 February in Libreville, Franceville, Port-Gentil and Oyem. The CAF executives expressed satisfaction on the progress made regarding preparations for Gabon 2017.

According to CAF’s official online website, apart from the Renovation Stadium in Franceville, which is already functional, construction works and upgrade of the other stadiums selected for the competition are at 80 to 90 per cent ready. An update was equally made on the availability of training grounds in each host city.

The official draw of the tournament is set to be held on 19 October in Libreville at 7pm local time. Accordingly, CAF is to send an inspection team to Gabon in advance with a review of sporting infrastructure, hotels and other facilities selected for the tournament.

The CAF Extraordinary General Assembly then took place later with the participation of all 54 national associations affiliated to CAF. Being held in Cairo, the congress saw the attendance of Egypt’s Youth and Sports Minister Abdel-Aziz. Infantino and the world governing body’s newly appointed General-Secretary Samoura, who is African, were also there.

The General Assembly looked into two major items that needed approval: two African members being elected for the FIFA Executive Council then the approval of a proposal from the CAF Executive Committee for the modification of the rules governing the application of the statutes of the General Assembly of CAF.

In the elections of the FIFA Council for a transitory period from 30 September 2016 to 16 March 2017, CAF Second Vice President Almamy Kabele of Guinea and CAF Executive Committee member Kwesi Nyantakyi of Ghana won after winning 37 votes and 31 votes respectively. The results of the other two candidates saw Ahmad of Madagascar, also a member of the CAF Executive Committee claiming 30 votes and Augustin Senghor of Senegal, president of the Senegal Football Federation, polling nine.

With the election of the duo Nyantakyi and Kabele, Africa thus has seven members among the FIFA council after the two newly- elected members joined FIFA executives CAF President Issa Hayatou (Cameroon), Hani Abu Rida (Egypt), Constant Omari (DR Congo), Tarek Bouchamaoui (Tunisia) and Lydia Nsekera (Burundi).

For the proposal from the CAF Executive Committee, for the modifications of the Statutes, Rules governing the application of the Statutes and Rules of the General Assembly of CAF, 42 voted in favour with one against.

The congress, however, rejected a proposal from the Djibouti Football Federation for the modification of Article 18.3 of the CAF Statutes regarding the candidacy for the CAF president. Thirty-two voted against the proposal, 16 in favour and five abstentions.

In the opening speech of CAF’s extraordinary congress, Hayatou said CAF has become a permanent institution which will soon celebrate its 60th anniversary. “This is largely thanks to our various forms of sacrifices, from our predecessors and business partners who believed in us since many years ago.

“It is due to the urgent need for CAF to align itself with the new status quo that we have gathered here today for the Extraordinary General Assembly, in order to update our statutes to conform with those of FIFA, as well as to be capable of standing up to the supplemental positions which henceforth are Africa’s in FIFA’s council.

“We ought, together, to continue with the reflection in order to propel ourselves into the future and definitely set African football in proper alignment with modernity, be it from a statutory or structural stand point. Together we have been working on it unrelentingly long ago.

“Your availability is far from being the least of these sacrifices. Especially to one who knows the various solicitations, duties and responsibilities that are yours in your respective countries, but each time that African and world football have had need of you, to break through a threshold and pursue its way forward, fuelled by your passion, you have always been there.

“By virtue of your sense of responsibility, your massive and unconditional support, for which I will never be able to thank you enough, you brought about the adoption of a series of reforms in FIFA on 26 February 2016 in Zurich, thus helping me to complete the mission that was assigned to me as the interim president of FIFA.

Hayatou served as the acting FIFA president until 26 February 2016 after Blatter was banned from all football-related activities as part of the FIFA corruption investigation of 2015. He has been CAF president since 1988.

“The present health of the confederation is the living testimony of the fact that the efforts we have made so far have not been in vain. The tens of competitions we organise have mastered timing, robust organisation, increased participation and a general level of constant improvement.

“The foregoing undoubtedly helps to establish the seriousness of the institution and allows us to forge new partnerships with sponsors and other partners who see in CAF a credible institution, reliable and worthwhile interlocutor.

“It is through this lens that the harmonious relationship with the other confederations and the governing body -- FIFA -- should be seen. To the latter I reiterate my gratitude for the assistance and multifaceted support through development programmes and capacity building initiatives for our coaches, referees and administrators.

“My thanks, in this light, are also directed at our member associations for their unconditional adherence to our numerous undertakings for the development of football in Africa, of which one of the most recent is the licensing of clubs, for which about 90 per cent of them have already had to sacrifice in the preliminary stages.

“This Extraordinary General Assembly only marks one step in a process that aims at being broadly inclusive. At its end, a broad consultation, to include all member associations of CAF will be opened, in order to set up a unit in charge of suggesting the putting in place of supplementary reforms, with the short, medium and long term objective of ameliorating the governance, competitiveness and professionalism of African football. This is in order to stand up to future challenges and guarantee the development of our football and its radiance at the global level.

“I do not doubt one instance that together, united as we have always been, we will be able to overcome the challenges of the future. Long live African football! Let us celebrate Africa,” Hayatou exhorted.

Infantino, who arrived in Cairo after attending Asia’s congress meetings the week before, attended the legislative and supreme organ of CAF for the first time on African soil since assuming the reins of the global football body in February.

In a speech addressed to the congress, the 44-year-old Infantino highlighted the importance of the African continent in the development of football across the world.

“Africa has a very important role in football. We have to move into action and let’s give Africa the place it deserves in world football. Africa will benefit most from a proposed increase in the football investment programme,” Infantino said.

The 39th CAF Ordinary General Assembly will take place on Thursday 16 March 2017 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

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