New FIFA President Infantino Visiting Nigeria In June
Recently elected FIFA president Gianni Infantino has confirmed that he will be visiting Nigeria next month, according to the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF). Amaju Pinnick of the NFF revealed the impending visit from FIFA president Infantino.
Swiss former UEFA Secretary General Infantino was elected as the new FIFA president at the end of February, and began working for world football’s governing body with immediate effect.
The election ended in a race between Infantino and Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, but the Swiss was the victor in the second round of voting with 115 of the 207 votes from FIFA’s national associations, defeating Salman, who had 88.
NFF president Pinnick met with Infantino at the FIFA Congress in Mexico, and it was there that the new FIFA boss confirmed his trip to the country and revealed his contentment with the efforts made by the Nigerian leadership, according to Pinnick.
“The FIFA president says Nigeria is a big country and a massive footballing nation that should help with the new FIFA leadership’s drive to truly develop the game,” Pinnick explained to ESPN.
“He is excited about our various capacity-building and youth development programs and that is why he is coming to watch the NFF/ZENITH Bank Future Eagles Championship finals,” he added, referring to a new tournament meant to develop the youth.
“He sees a lot of potentials and dynamism in the current NFF leadership and says he would love to work with the NFF for the general development of the game,” Pinnick concluded.
FIFA president Infantino showing an interest in Africa
So Infantino will travel to Nigeria in June, adding to his previous African visits since taking office at FIFA with trips to South Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Gabon in March.
Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) president Andrew Kamanga recently confirmed that Infantino would make a trip to the country in 2018 to honour the 25th anniversary of the tragic Gabon Air Crash of 1993, which killed 18 members of the Zambia national football team.
The importance of Africa in the plans of FIFA president Infantino is further visible in the fact that he appointed the first ever African Secretary General of FIFA at the Congress in Mexico, with Senegalese United Nations official Fatma Samoura elevated to the position within world football’s governing body.
She is based in Nigeria at the moment, and is the first ever female Secretary General of FIFA, beginning her new role in June.
One of the major elements of Infantino’s FIFA presidential campaign was the idea of expanding the World Cup to 40 teams, freeing up an additional eight places for qualification, which would translate to two more places for Africa.
At the moment Africa is allotted only five qualification spots, with 54 nations fighting for a place at the World Cup. This makes it very difficult for most teams in Africa to ever get a taste of the tournament. Infantino’s plan would provide two additional places for the continent.