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FIFA Love Affair With CAF Is Fuel For World Football Bust-Up

FIFA have found a willing ally in CAF as it tries to muscle its way down world football’s corridors of power with confrontational agendas.

Top of the list is the matter of FIFA’s pet project of a biennial World Cup to replace the tried-and-tested quadrangular version, which has survived the Second World War and remains the world’s biggest sporting event.

Recently, Giovanni Infantino, FIFA’s Swiss-Italian president, attended CAF’s extraordinary general assembly in Cairo. He was accompanied by Arsene Wenger, FIFA’s chief of global football development.

During their presentations, the two FIFA officials went to great lengths to present a strong case for a biennial World Cup, insisting that increasing the frequency of the World Cup would help member associations reach their full potential.

They argued that this project would extend its focus far beyond the game’s elite, which for now means UEFA (the European football governing body) and CONMEBOL (South America’s football governing body). All the countries that have ever won the World Cup are from these two FIFA confederations.

Infantino told CAF delegates that organisations like UEFA are scared of plans to make the World Cup an event that takes place every two years.

“Those who are against it are those at the top. It happens in every sector of life when there are reforms and changes, those who are at the top don’t want anything to change because they are at the top,” said Infantino.

When the time came for CAF to vote on the matter of a biennial World Cup, there was wholehearted support with no objections. Infantino and Wenger were delighted with their success in selling the concept to CAF.

“We don’t want to copy what the men are doing,” said Infantino. “We need to get those creative juices flowing.”

FIFA is due to vote on the matter of a biennial World Cup and with the support of CAF and Asian Football Confederation, the outcome is by no means a foregone conclusion.

The only thing that is certain is that UEFA and CONMEBOL will not accept the outcome and will set off on the warpath with FIFA. Taking on FIFA’s biggest federation could lead to bruising encounters and with no option of a counter-attack. And perhaps a red card for FIFA, which means the matter will die a natural death.

UEFA feels FIFA’s hierarchy is on a mission to curtail the power of Europe in world football. Europe’s domestic leagues are among the richest in the world and include some of the world’s biggest clubs. The UEFA Champions League has global appeal.

Looking back on how FIFA has been courting CAF essentially to secure support in the voting chambers, it may well have been a futile exercise, despite its best efforts. Infantino’s interest in CAF first piqued earlier this year when he brokered a deal to give the politically connected billionaire Patrice Motsepe a clear run in the continental presidential race. He managed the presidential contenders well enough for them to withdraw from the race and disappear quietly.

By virtue of being CAF president, Motsepe would become one of Infantino’s vice-presidents.

Infantino and Wenger were also present when Motsepe expanded on the concept of a Super League. They didn’t offer any input on the concept which bombed spectacularly. Instead, they allowed Motsepe to explain how CAF will bring together the continent’s elite football clubs for an event that will surpass existing events in quality, fan appeal and financial riches.

When Motsepe put the matter to a vote, it was unanimously accepted, even though details about the proposed Super League were scarce.

It is now emerging that member countries are asking if their leading clubs will be playing in the proposed 20-team Super League. By the looks of things, the inaugural version could consist of 20 clubs from 13 African countries. CAF have 53 member countries, and more than half of those will not be represented.

The big difference between the European Super League and CAF’s Super League is that the European venture was a private initiative. With CAF it is all above board and the continent’s controlling body is running with the concept.

The chairperson of CAF’s interclub competitions committee, Ahmed Yahya, feels an African Super League could succeed.

“In Europe, the project was announced outside the football structure and in open conflict with UEFA,” he said. “The African Super League will be created within football structures, respecting the football pyramid.

“It seeks to help African soccer clubs grow or, in some cases, survive, providing the financial stability to continue their valuable work of developing young talents and taking them to a higher stage.”

In South Africa, there is widescale support for the Pan-African Super League since it is likely to include the hugely popular ‘Big Three’ of Mzansi football – Mamelodi Sundowns, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates.

FIFA’s love affair with CAF continues unabated: “Count on the full support of FIFA, of course, when developing club competitions and a Pan-African Super League for the future of African football,” said Infantino.

@Herman_Gibbs IOL Sport


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