By Petros Kausiyo Deputy Sports Editor
SOUTHERN African countries have thrown their full weight behind FIFA president Gianni Infantino with COSAFA this weekend reaffirming as a bloc their support for the Swiss lawyer’s bid for a fresh mandate to lead the world soccer governing body.
In a move initiated by COSAFA president Philip Chiyangwa, the 14-member body, African football’s biggest regional bloc, unanimously voted to back Infantino’s candidacy once again.
It emerged that Chiyangwa proposed at their annual meeting in Johannesburg on Saturday that COSAFA should speak with one voice and unequivocally on the need to support Infantino and leaders of the various associations responded positively to the call by voting unanimously on the resolution.
Chiyangwa, speaking from Johannesburg yesterday, said it was imperative that his region supported Infantino and give him another mandate to complete the development legacy that he was building on the continent and around the world for which COSAFA was one of the beneficiaries.
“For the period that Infantino has been in power he has not only spearheaded development of the game, he has also brought about unity.
“There is much more money that is coming from FIFA into the coffers of the organisations like COSAFA and direct into the associations for growth and development and we have witnessed a lot of that during his time.
“We believe we are poised for more growth and that is why it is important to support him and I am happy that the entire COSAFA has also seen it fit to throw our weight behind him,” Chiyangwa said.
The COSAFA president also revealed that the regional body had officially awarded the hosting rights of this year’s Senior men’s Cup to Zimbabwe.
ZIFA, through their board had last year bid to host the COSAFA Cup but that proposal was subject to the COSAFA Congress, the Zimbabwe Government and the association’s new leadership giving their thumbs up.
Government, through the Sport and Recreation Commission, tentatively gave their nod to Zimbabwe staging the tournament, set to be the biggest ever, from May 19-June 1 and now need to officially give their written guarantee.
On Saturday, the COSAFA Congress also officially awarded this year’s competition to Zimbabwe.
Interestingly, Zimbabwe’s Warriors will go into this year’s campaign as defending champions with history-making coach Sunday Chidzambwa seeking an unprecedented three successive COSAFA Cup titles having guided his side to wins in 2017 and 2018 in Rustenburg and Polokwane.
COSAFA are now awaiting the Government’s letter of confirmation to guaranteeing certain aspects such as security and accommodation related to the hosting of such a big competition.
Crucially for the regional body which is not only the biggest in zone and in size but the most active on the continent having annually organised competitions for the women, men’s senior and Under-20 and boys’ Under-17 tournaments, is the bid to cement their relations with FIFA under Infantino’s leadership.
After their meeting COSAFA also confirmed the backing of Infantino via a press release on their website.
“The 14 member associations of COSAFA have reaffirmed their support for FIFA president Gianni Infantino at the organisation’s Annual General Meeting in Johannesburg on Saturday.
“Infantino received the unanimous backing of the Southern African region as he seeks re-election as head of the global governing body later this year.
“The move is in line with a similar stance taken last year by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), who endorsed the presidency of Infantino,” read the COSAFA website.
Infantino had earlier declared his readiness to continue leading FIFA.
“I want another four years of it because I believe in what I do,” Infantino said at FIFA’s Congress in Moscow last year.
“I believe in what I can do for FIFA and for football.”
FIFA on their part have also invested heavily in the COSAFA region and released $1 million which was used for the successful organisation of the four tournaments that Chiyangwa leadership staged for the region last year.
In a major step forward for the development of football in Africa, FIFA announced the official opening of its second regional development office on the African continent following the official inauguration of a new office in Johannesburg in November last year.
In line with FIFA 2.0 <https://resources.fifa.com/mm/document/affederation/generic/02/84/35/01/FIFA_2.0_Vision_LOW_neu.17102016_Neutral.pdf> and its ongoing commitment to promoting and growing football around the world, the new regional development office in Johannesburg is providing dedicated assistance and support to member associations in the successful delivery of the FIFA Forward programme in Africa.
It was inaugurated during a special ceremony attended by member associations from across Africa.
The FIFA regional development office in Johannesburg is staffed by a dedicated and experienced team of full-time development officers that work closely with 14 member associations from the COSAFA region.
FIFA also noted that:
“As the second fully operational FIFA regional development office in Africa, Johannesburg is a key addition to FIFA’s international network of regional development offices. This new office is providing day-to-day and local support in the COSAFA region as FIFA aims to work ever more closely alongside our member associations in our shared commitment to develop football globally.
“The FIFA Forward development programme is the flagship of our president, Gianni Infantino. FIFA Forward is already having a real and lasting impact in growing the game and ensuring that it is more accessible and inclusive to all than ever before. By 2022, FIFA will have invested almost USD3 billion in football development globally through the FIFA Forward programme.”
“This new office forms part of our expanding global network of regional development offices and is one of three dedicated regional development offices located across Africa. Each regional office is providing hands-on local support to help develop and inspire a new generation of footballing talent.”
Source : The Herald