Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
A US$6 million windfall for ZIFA, spread over the next four years, has been secured after Swiss lawyer Gianni Infantino was guaranteed another four years, in charge of FIFA yesterday.
The only challenger to his throne, former Tottenham defender Ramon Vega, failed to garner enough support to file a nomination by the cut-off point.
Infantino has fashioned himself as a friend of poor associations in world football, fronting the movement that more of the funds which the world football controlling body generate should be channelled towards the member associations.
Last December, the injection was increased to US$6 million, over four years, from this year.
His critics have claimed he has been trying to seduce the poor nations, including scores of African national football controlling bodies, into his corner.
But, after his only challenger, Vega, failed to garner the five nominations needed for his candidature to stand, Infantino’s reforms are now certain to be implemented.
The 47-year-old Vega, who needed five nominations from the 211 FIFA members for his candidature to sail through, could not get that seal of approval in what was a sign of overwhelming support for the work Infantino has done since he came into office as the FIFA boss.
The former UEFA secretary-general inherited a FIFA battered by a damaging global corruption scandal, which blew away most of the game’s ruling elite, including former boss Sepp Blatter, exactly three years ago.
But, to his eternal credit, Infantino has found a way to lead the game from that pit of darkness with the barrage of negativity, which used to accompany the world football governing body at every turn, now replaced by some positive reports of how the organisation is conducting its business.
His new four-year term, set to be confirmed at the FIFA Congress on June 5 this year in the French capital Paris, just two days before the Women’s World Cup gets underway in that country, is also set to ensure that the reforms, to the game, which he has been fronting, will not be dumped by the wayside.
And these include;
Plans to increase the FIFA World Cup from 32 teams to 48 from 2026, with the possibility to even bring forward the expansion of the world’s premier football tournament to the 2022 edition in Qatar, with a decision set to be taken by March next year.
Had Infantino fallen by the wayside, in Paris in June this year, it’s very likely that the plans to increase the number of participants at the World Cup, which is widely supported by African nations who have found it difficult to make it to the tournament, would have fallen through.
The Warriors of Zimbabwe, who have never qualified for the World Cup finals, will be returning to the qualifiers of the tournament after they were banned from taking part in the battle for a place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia because of ZIFA’s failure to settle a debt owed to former coach Tom Saintfiet.
The Warriors are one of 41 African nations, of the 54 members of the Confederation of African Football, who have never qualified for the World Cup with only 13 countries — Cameroon (seven times), Nigeria (six times), Morocco (five times), Tunisia (five times), Algeria (four times), Cote d’Ivoire (three times), Egypt (three times), Ghana (three times), South Africa (three times, Senegal (once), DRC (once), Angola (once) and Togo (once) — having made the trip to the showcase.
Zambia, with 13 failed attempts, top the list of failed bids to go to the World Cup, Guinea (12), Kenya (12), Ethiopia (11), Sudan (11), Zimbabwe (10), Uganda (10), Burkina Faso (10) and Malawi (10) among the African countries who have not made it despite numerous bids.
The 211 FIFA member associations get the grants under the FIFA Forward Development Programme and they can use up to US$1 million per year for their running and operational costs that include governance, administration, the national teams, domestic competitions, permanent administrative and technical staff, financial management (audits), website and other communication platforms.
Each of the six confederations, including CAF, will be entitled to a yearly contribution of US$12 million to support football activities and projects and part of that money, US$1 million, will be distributed to the regional bodies like COSAFA.
The 14 COSAFA members met recently in Johannesburg, South Africa, and endorsed the proposal by their leader Philip Chiyangwa that they all throw their weight behind Infantino for the FIFA presidency.
Yesterday, Chiyangwa, who enjoys a very close relationship with Infantino, which saw him bring the FIFA president to his birthday party in Harare two years ago, said the best man in world football, who cared for the future of the game, had won the right to be in charge for the next four years.
‘’There is no question in my mind that Infantino is the best man in terms of leading FIFA and his record, in the few years he has been in charge of the game, speaks for itself, taking over at a time of great difficulty for world football and finding the calmness to deal with all the challenges that were confronting the game,’’ said Chiyangwa.
‘’He is a very principled man and knew that he was not going into an easy ride but had the confidence that he would make a difference, something that we have all seen, and it became very clear, in the first two years of his time in charge of FIFA, that he deserved more time to implement his vision.
‘’FIFA is a good organisation again today, thanks largely to the efforts that Infantino has put to ensure that the game wins, and develops and there is a positive outlook to the organisation and it’s good that those who have the mandate to make the decisions to elect the FIFA president have spoken loud and clear that he deserves more time in the job.
‘’As COSAFA we were very clear that he is our man, no matter what, and all the 14 countries spoke with one voice because they have seen he is a good friend of the game and it’s a good day for everyone who loves football that Gianni is guaranteed, at least, another four years at the helm of world football.’’
Last year, Infantino again showed he enjoyed a close relationship with Chiyangwa by sending him a personal note on the occasion of the Harare businessman’s birthday.
‘’Dear Philip, on the occasion of this very special day, let me extend my warmest wishes to you for lots of luck, happiness, good health and success in the year to come,” Infantino wrote.
“I sincerely hope you will be able to celebrate with your family and friends. Many happy returns of the day and kind personal regards. I look forward to seeing you again soon.
Source : The Herald