Gianni Infantino and Africa, a rolling business

Gianni Infantino and Africa, a rolling business

Gianni Infantino is congratulated by delegates after his re-election as head of FIFA, in Kigali on March 16, 2023.

Gianni Infantino, 52, has neither the bonhomie nor the eloquence of Sepp Blatter, his predecessor at the International Football Federation (FIFA). And his relations with Africa are probably less marked by this paternalism of which the Swiss had made a trademark. “Blatter really loved Africa. He was less calculating than Infantino, who is much more pragmatic and does nothing for nothing.summarizes on condition of anonymity a senior European football official who knows the two men well.

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Thursday, March 16 in Kigali, Rwanda, Gianni Infantino was unsurprisingly re-elected as head of FIFA for a third four-year term. The only candidate in the running, the former secretary general of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) did not need to campaign to capture the majority of the 54 votes from a continent which is, after Europe ( 55), the one with the most federations affiliated to FIFA.

In Africa, Gianni Infantino knew how to make himself appreciated. It has just increased the allocation allocated to the federations from 6 million to 8 million dollars (i.e. 7.5 million euros) over the period from 1er January 2023 to December 31, 2026, an increase of more than 30%. “For some African federations, which often depend on the State, this endowment is vital and allows certain projects to be carried out, in particular the improvement of sports or administrative structures. “recalls Lazare Banssé, president of the Burkinabe Football Federation.

African federations are campaigning for FIFA to be even more intransigent against political interference. In recent months, several federations (Chad, Kenya, Zimbabwe) have been suspended by the apex body. “This situation is explained by the financial dependence of the federations on the States, which consider that they can therefore interfere in their affairs”, said Saïd Ali Athouman, the boss of the Comorian federation.

“A win-win relationship”

They will also be very attentive to the evolution of Gianni Infantino’s project to play the World Cup every two years. “For the selections, this would increase the chances of qualifying and would increase the financial benefits”, continues Lazare Banssé. However, this project is not unanimous in Africa, as the Cameroonian Joseph-Antoine Bell reminds us. “The World Cup is excellence, and I am in favor of the current calendar”, he said. The former goalkeeper, on the other hand, is opposed to Gianni Infantino’s plan to play the African Cup of Nations (CAN) every four years, compared to two years today: “Infantino wants more World Cups but less CAN, why? » This hypothesis, announced in February 2020, received a cold reception in Africa.

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Gianni Infantino has been accused several times of interfering in the affairs of African football. Some criticize him for his active role in the election of South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe as president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in 2021, or for supporting the appointment of Swiss-Congolese Véron Mosengo-Omba, a former member of FIFA, as Secretary General of this continental body.

Critics brushed aside by Lazare Banssé, who rather sees “a win-win relationship between Infantino and Africa: he needs African voices and we need the help and support of FIFA to carry out certain projects”. This interference trial also seems excessive in the eyes of Joseph-Antoine Bell: “Why do you think FIFA is so influential in Africa and weak in Europe? This is because the African federations, in their great majority, have few resources and are not very inventive. That FIFA helps financially and brings ideas, for the moment, that suits them…”

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