FIFA president Gianni Infantino stressed the importance of unity among member associations, regional organisations and continental confederations in his address to the Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) Annual General Assembly in Johannesburg, South Africa, prior to attending a meeting with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Cape Town.
“COSAFA is very important in this part of the world, and as part of the FIFA Forward programme, in which we introduced a strong support to the zonal organisations,” the FIFA President said. “Nevertheless we can and want to do more so we need to be united and work together in a true spirit of cooperation.”
The FIFA President highlighted that African football should look to prepare to optimum levels for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, which will see the number of African teams participating in the competition increase from five to nine or ten.
“Doubling the number of teams participating in the World Cup is crucial because it can have an impact on youth and the entire football community as it gives many more countries a concrete chance to qualify. This can trigger investments from governments and the private sector, which can help the member associations further develop football in their respective countries,” he added. “In order for African teams not only to participate, but to shine at a world stage, the work has to start now. Africa should be united to get back what it has given to global football, and this can only happen if we all work together.”
Subsequently, in Cape Town, the FIFA President discussed the importance of football as a vehicle for positive development in society with President Cyril Ramaphosa, the President of the Republic of South Africa and former Chairperson of the African Union (AU). The meeting also referenced Saturday’s productive meeting held with the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo and current AU Chairperson, Félix Tshisekedi, and the imminent launch of a pan-African schools football tournament.
The two presidents also talked about the unifying power of football throughout the continent, while emphasising the importance of South Africa as hub for football in the region, one of the reasons why FIFA decided to locate one of its four African FIFA Regional Development Offices there.