CAF explains 24-team Nations Cup proposal

African Football Confederation (CAF) President, Ahmad Ahmad (right), FIFA President, Gianni Infantino (centre) and Royal Moroccan Football Federation President, Fouzi Lekjaa at the first ever African Football Symposium in Skhirat, on the outskirts of Rabat…on Tuesday. PHOTO: AFP

• African football symposium ends in Rabat

African Nations Cup Organising Committee Chairman, Amaju Pinnick, yesterday in Rabat told the gathering of the continent’s football’s decision makers why CAF’s flagship tournament should be expanded.

“This proposal is hinged on sporting, commercial and infrastructural reasons, and we believe that sooner than later, everyone would come to appreciate the position of the proponents of a bigger Africa Cup of Nations.

“George Weah from Liberia became the only African to have been named the World Player of the Year, same year he was voted the African Player of the Year and European Player of the Year. He is from a nation (Liberia) many would consider a minnow in the African game. If we have a bigger AFCON, there will definitely be more talented players coming onto the stage, and we could just discover that the next ‘Weah’ would come from either Djibouti or Botswana.

“For commercial reasons, more corporate organizations and stakeholders will be involved and it is certainly a bigger cake for everyone. CAF will be richer and the Member Associations will surely benefit.

“When UEFA staged the European Championship in 2012, when it was a 16 –team event, they made a profit of $1.5 billion. Last year, when they staged a 24 –team event for the first time, they made $2.1 billion.”

Pinnick said having a 24-team AFCON would also compel the development of stadia facilities across the African continent, “as CAF will certainly encourage co-hosting, and this will also ginger general infrastructural development in the continent.”

The two–day symposium on African football with the theme, ‘African Football: Our Vision’ ended in Rabat, Morocco yesterday with high hopes for the future of the African game.

Presidents and General Secretaries of CAF’s 55 member associations were joined by Chairmen of Leagues, top–notch club owners, marketing gurus, media luminaries, broadcast partners, legal experts and playing legends at enthusiastic sessions held inside the International Conference Centre Mohammed VI in Skhirat, on the outskirts of Morocco’s administrative capital.

FIFA President, Gianni Infantino and Secretary General, Fatma Samoura, a Senegalese, also attended, with the former calling out African football leaders to eradicate the ugly menace of age cheating as a first step in fostering the growth of the game.

“This symposium will prove crucial to the future of African football. We must be united and work very hard, and be sincere in putting the best ideas on the table to propel African football to new levels,” said Infantino.

In an impressive mix of English and French (and a few words in Arabic), the FIFA boss also pledged the world body’s support for the steps that must be taken to reposition the African game, while acknowledging that women football in African has potential to be a much bigger brand. He also asserted that long –term investment is the way to go for African football.

CAF President Ahmad, who spoke after Morocco’s Minister of Youth and Sports, Rachid Talmi and Infantino during Tuesday’s opening ceremony, said: “The truth is that we must find consensus here on the way forward for the African game. We must focus on the essentials and forge a change in the direction of the African game. We will be having a different symposium for the women’s game in the first quarter of 2018.”

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