Tuesday 07 February 2023, 19:00

FIFA President says a new era is awaiting African football

  • Gianni Infantino opens a two-day workshop for African member associations

  • Arsène Wenger also addresses the workshop

  • FIFA President says it is time for African football to change gear

African football is set to embark on a new era, with greater investment in football development and the chance for more teams to shine on the global stage, Gianni Infantino told a workshop for African member associations.

Speaking at the opening of the two-day event in Paris, which was organised to present the strategy for FIFA Forward 3.0 and outline good governance principles, the FIFA President stressed the importance of finding ways of encouraging more players to remain in Africa to exercise their profession. Meanwhile, FIFA Chief of Global Football Development Arsène Wenger talked about the importance of identifying talent and giving young players regular competitive football.

“This will be a football year, this will be a women's football year, this will be an important year, this will be the year of a new Forward cycle, this will be the year where we really start to make a difference, where we really start to make football truly global,” said the FIFA President. “We are here to boost football and it is really time that we change the dynamics, that we change the speed, and that we change the gear when it comes to African football.”

The FIFA President said that the decision to expand the FIFA World Cup to 48 teams, practically doubling the number of spots for CAF from the current five to nine or ten, would have knock-on effects in encouraging investment.

“Almost every one of you can really dream realistically to be part of a World Cup and have a real chance to participate,” said Mr Infantino. “Now, some of you will not participate, of course, but you will invest, your governments, your cities, your clubs will invest because there is a real possibility now to play in a World Cup.”

He explained that African teams would also benefit from FIFA’s plans to host the FIFA U-17 World Cup annually, with 48 teams in the men’s edition and 24 team in the women’s, set to begin in the coming years.

“This will give the opportunity to your players in Africa, or maybe kids of Africans who are growing up in Europe to play for your country, already at a young age, in a World Cup, against the Argentinas, Brazils and Englands of this world,” he said.

He said that the new cycle of the FIFA Forward programme, which began this year, would see increased funding for football development in Africa, and outlined the importance of good governance.

The FIFA President said that it was important to give African players a chance to play on their own continent. “We need to be able to retain players as well in Africa a little bit longer. We need to offer them opportunities. We need to make them grow. We need to make them feel part of a professional environment,” he said.

He added that there were two things that made African football stand out. “One is the talent – the talent that is there, that is in Africa and in Africans – and the second is the passion – the passion for the game that exists in your continent and that is really, really unique for the whole population," he remarked. "So, we have these ingredients, and we have to build on them together to make the difference.”

Arsène Wenger said that, in addition to identifying talent, it was important that players got high-quality coaching and regular competitive football, adding that the benefits would be seen in the short term if African member associations acted efficiently on the advice provided via the various strands of the FIFA Talent Development Scheme.