Eddie Chikamhi, Harare Bureau
THE organising committee behind the historic visit of Fifa president Gianni Infantino have promised glitz and glamour as the world’s most powerful football leader makes a historic visit to Zimbabwe today.
The Swiss lawyer will celebrate Zifa president Philip Chiyangwa’s birthday and ascendancy to the Cosafa throne.
Infantino, who also marks one-year in office this weekend, will headline an array of football dignitaries and high-profile business people from not less than 54 African countries for Chiyangwa’s big bash.
Chairman of the organising committee, Chamu Chiwanza, confirmed that Infantino, who is the guest of honour at the party this evening, will arrive today from South Africa.
The birthday bash will also be attended by Fifa secretary general Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura apart from other distinguished delegates who should include 24 heads of football federations from the continent and businesspeople among them Mamelodi Sundowns owner Patrice Motsepe.
President of the Madagascar Football Federation, Ahmad Ahmad, who has declared his candidature for the Caf presidency at next month’s elections, is also expected to be among the guests.
“Basically it’s an historic moment as far as Zimbabwean football is concerned, it’s an historic moment as far as Zimbabwean tourism is concerned and by and large historic as far as relationships with other countries are concerned,” Chiwanza told a media conference in Harare yesterday..
“Infantino is the guest of honour at Dr Chiyangwa’s 58th birthday bash which will be held tomorrow (today) at HICC. What is more historic about the visit is that it’s not just the president of Fifa who is coming.
“I am also pleased to announce that the second most powerful person in world football, who is the secretary-general of Fifa, that is Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura, is also coming.
“There is a very small but quite powerful delegation coming from Fifa and I must hasten to say that the main purpose of their visit is to attend the birthday party and be part of the celebrations to mark Dr Chiyangwa’s winning of the Cosafa presidency.
“There are a series of events that we have lined up for the Fifa president as he will be in the country for a very limited time. Chief among those things is obviously football development and rehabilitation, things that Zifa will be taking care of.
“So, it is going to be very historic. Remember this is the first time Infantino is visiting the country ever since he was elected president.
“We are also expecting some high-profile delegates coming from 54 countries and from those countries, 24 heads of football federations have confirmed and I’m told six of them are actually arriving today (yesterday).
“So we are expecting quite a number of football federations from the continent who are going to be part of the celebrations.”
Chiyangwa’s bash has been viewed with suspicion by authorities at Caf.
Infantino is also expected to meet President Mugabe. He is also expected to visit some development projects like the Zifa Village and the site for the proposed new Zifa headquarters.
The Fifa boss will meet Uganda President Yoweri Museveni tomorrow evening before a half-day engagement with other football stakeholders on Saturday.
“As a committee, we can assure you that there is not going to be any meeting to discuss crucial football matters with the Fifa president. Not anything to our knowledge. Celebrations are the main reason,” said Chiwanza.
“Yes, one would ask why have so many federation presidents but people must not forget the person that we are celebrating. This is Philip Chiyangwa, the man who brought Michael Jackson at the highest peak of his career in 1988 to Zimbabwe.
“Philip is known for doing extra-ordinary things and do not be fooled that there is going to be a meeting or anything of that sort.
“He wants to do what other people dare him that he will not be able to do. It’s historic, there is no other president of any federation who has had a party of this magnitude where the Fifa president himself will come. Ladies and gentleman this is Philip Chiyangwa for you.
“That is what he wants and he has told me that next year’s celebrations, who knows, maybe Donald Trump will be part of the delegation.”