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Infantino to talk, party in southern Africa

By AFP   |   20 February 2017   |   2:41 pm  

FIFA president Italian Gianni Infantino / AFP PHOTO / ALFREDO ESTRELLA

FIFA president Gianni Infantino will be in South Africa and Zimbabwe this week to meet African football bosses and attend a birthday party.

He has invited all 54 African national football association presidents to Johannesburg for two days of meetings, starting Tuesday.

The 46-year-old Swiss-Italian leaves for Harare Thursday to attend the birthday party of Zimbabwe football chief Philip Chiyangwa.

Organisers of the two-day summit said Infantino will explain changes to the global game, including expanding the World Cup to 48 teams from 2026.

African officials have long argued for more than the five World Cup places they compete for, even though teams representing the continent consistently underperform.

No African team has reached the semi-finals and the first time two nations from the continent reached the knockout phase was in Brazil three years ago.

Under the 48-team format, there has been media speculation that Africa could get up to nine slots.

Chiyangwa, recently elected head of southern Africa football umbrella football body COSAFA, has come under fire over his birthday celebrations.

CAF president Issa Hayatou has condemned the Zimbabwean for inviting to the party various non-COSAFA African officials who will be in Johannesburg.

Chiyangwa is campaign manager for Ahmad Ahmad, a former Malagasy government minister who is challenging Hayatou on March 16 for the CAF presidency.

Hayatou, who has ruled CAF for 29 years, reportedly believes the party is a front and the real purpose is to rally support for Ahmad.

The Cameroonian, who is seeking an eighth four-year term as head of the Cairo-based organisation, has been challenged for the post only twice.

He crushed Angolan Armando Machado and Botswanan Ismael Bhamjee in elections, but seems to view Ahmad as a more serious threat.

CAF did not support Infantino in the 2016 FIFA elections, publicly backing Bahraini Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa instead.



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