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FIFA President vows to boost African football during talks with AU chief

FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, has spoken of the need to strengthen football in Africa during a call with outgoing African Union (AU) chairperson Cyril Ramaphosa.

Infantino and Ramaphosa, who is the President of South Africa, reviewed the progress that had been made since both organisations signed a Memorandum of Understanding in February 2019.

According to FIFA, Infantino felt “positive momentum” had been generated courtesy of “strong institutional bonds” that he believed would “benefit” African people.

Plans to boost African football with a focus on infrastructure, including stadia and pitches, a football academy and competitions, were among the topics discussed, FIFA said.

The fight against match manipulation, as well as safety and security at matches across Africa, were also on the agenda during the call which was held ahead of the 34th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the AU.

FIFA said Infantino also emphasised the importance of “fair access” to vaccines as Africa battles with the spread of coronavirus.#

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“Having visited 35 African countries in the last few years, Gianni Infantino stressed the important role that Africa plays in global football, and how that needs to be strengthened in future,” the statement from FIFA read.

“This role has been supported with strong investments via the FIFA Forward programme which has already delivered close to 300 projects across the continent.

“The rollout of the FIFA COVID-19 Relief Plan, supporting football across Africa during the pandemic, has also been significant and continues to play an important role to keep football alive in the continent.

“Related to COVID-19, vaccination processes will also be crucial in the months ahead.

“In this respect, the FIFA President reiterated his support for fair access to vaccines for all, a message that he had passed to a global audience earlier this week at the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, in the presence of the WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.”

FIFA teamed up with the AU, the WHO and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to launch the #SafeHome campaign in August 2020.

The initiative was created to support those at risk of domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic.

A number of African football legends supported the campaign via video awareness messages on social media.

FIFA believes the initiative is a “further testimony of the close collaboration” between themselves and the AU.

During the call, FIFA said Ramaphosa and Infantino recognised the opportunities that education through football can bring through the FIFA Football for Schools programme.

Félix Tshisekedi, the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, succeeded Ramaphosa as the AU chairperson following the handover at today’s summit.

FIFA said Infantino assured Ramaphosa that the “strong relationship forged between both organisations in the past two years will continue” under Tshisekedi’s chairmanship.

But the meeting comes during a period of crisis at the CAF.

CAF President Ahmad was banned from all football activity for five years by FIFA in November after he was found guilty of committing four breaches of the ethics code.

His sanction was temporarily suspended by the Court of Arbitration for Sport last week, meaning the 61-year-old Madagascan football official was reinstated as the organisation’s President.

CAF’s Governance Committee declared that Ahmad was eligible to stand as a candidate in upcoming elections, but the organisation’s Executive Committee then said it wanted FIFA to have the final say on the matter.

FIFA effectively took over control of CAF in July 2019 following a series of allegations levelled at Ahmad.

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