Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Sports Reporter
THE Government has welcomed the visit by Fifa president Gianni Infantino, who should arrive in Zimbabwe on Thursday at the invitation of Zifa president Philip Chiyangwa.
The Zifa boss marks his belated 58th birthday on that day as well as celebrating his ascendancy to the Cosafa presidency.
The thumbs-up by Government came hours before a visit to the Southern African region by Caf president Issa Hayatou, who was in South Africa for the Caf Super Cup.
Hayatou issued a shock warning to Cosafa and Chiyangwa in particular over the February 24 meeting, saying the gathering of football association presidents was meant to “destabilise” Caf.
Caf holds its elective annual general meeting next month in Ethiopia and Cosafa has publicly backed Madagascar Football Association president Ahmad Ahmad for the top job against Hayatou.
Hayatou, who has been at the helm of Caf since 1988, threatened unspecified action against both Zifa and Cosafa, as his uninterrupted reign faces a stern test for the first time. He met South African President Jacob Zuma.
Sport and Recreation Minister Makhosini Hlongwane said the Government is happy with Infantino’s visit and also supports the renewal of office bearers, adding that a democratic process of choosing leadership was necessary and had Government’s support.
“We are happy that the Fifa president is coming to Zimbabwe; it’s a good thing for our country as it shows that he has confidence in us and the leadership of Zifa. I will be personally there to welcome him,” said Hlongwane, while addressing the Bulawayo Press Club on Friday night.
Infantino’s visit has been widely viewed as a body blow on Hayatou, who couldn’t pinpoint the Caf statutes Chiyangwa violated by inviting African countries’ football association presidents to Harare for his birthday celebrations.
Infantino indicated that he would be arriving in Zimbabwe on Thursday evening from South Africa where he will be attending a Fifa executive summit in Johannesburg tomorrow to February 23.
“I have no doubt that this visit will help us to lay the foundations for further fruitful cooperation and to share our personal visions for the continued development of our sport in your country. I wish you every success in your upcoming endeavours and look forward to seeing you soon,” Infantino said in his visit confirmation letter to Chiyangwa.