FIFA President Gianni Infantino was one of the three special guests invited to speak at the 32nd Ordinary Assembly of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Sunday 10th February.
The world football boss addressed the 55-member Union currently chaired by the president of Rwanda H.E Paul Kagame.
World Cup 2026
In his speech, Infantino discussed the 2026 FIFA World Cup that will be co-hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico. He received an applause for increasing the number of African teams at the world stage from five to 9.5.
Importance of football to Africa
He also stressed the importance of football giving back to the continent in growing the economy, bettering the education standards among others.
He said: “I believe that just as Africa gives so much of its passion and positivity to football that football can give back to Africa and help the continent’s people in key areas: economic growth, education, gender mainstreaming, integration and football governance.”
Under this, Infantino emphasised the importance of infrastructural development. FIFA, using the revenues from the World Cup, is currently about USD 110 million every year in new pitches, competitions and football facilities on the continent.
Under education, Infantino touched on areas involving FIFA’s Football for Schools initiative.
He stressed that: “This project is about life skills, not football skills. We are excited about our Football for Schools project, which will provide a great platform to educate children – through football, as football is not just a sport but also a way of living. The implementation of the Football for Schools projects will go a long way on furthering social values and promoting safer and better lifestyles for millions of children around the globe and I call on you all here to support us in this endeavour and to be part of this culture for change.”
The football boss emphasised on football’s ability to help equality and empower girls and women.
Infantino urged the leaders to take seriously the issue of gender equality and also tickled them to support the three African teams participating in this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.
Under this, Infantino referred to the African Union’s theme for 2019, integration of refugees. He underlined football’s role as a universal and unifying language.
He expressed his hope that the AU and FIFA could work together to fight corruption and match fixing in the sport.
He said: “We cannot afford for this beautiful game of ours to be poisoned by corruption. We have a mission to protect the integrity of our sport and FIFA reiterates its willingness to work with all of you to root corruption out of African football. By partnering with the African Union, we would also have the ability to share our expertise on matters like stadium construction and security across Africa, ensuring that stadia are properly constructed and equipped following best practice, ensuring safety of venues and fans attending sports competitions.”
Additional reporting by FIFA