FIFA has a plan for Africa. But who does it serve?

It reminds me of the time Gianni walked into a FIFA Council meeting and told the board to sign a document that would allow him to sell the Club World Cup to private investors (who turned out to be SoftBank). Members, led by European officials, wanted details. An internal audit found that the event was worth much less than what Gianni had suggested.

Now back to the tweet: it turns out that FIFA officials were also surprised. Barbara González approached Gianni at the African Football Confederation Congress and asked to have their picture taken with him. Five minutes later, she sent the tweet. Now, I’m not saying that a league in Africa is a bad idea, but surely there has to be a solid plan before such an important project is undertaken?

RS: If nothing else, you must admire the chutzpah of it, not least because Infantino seems to me precisely the kind of person who would fall for the old “as you said” ruse.

There must be, as you say, a solid plan: economically, of course, but also in sport. The basic idea seems sound to me. Certainly south of the Sahara, African club football is fighting terribly for investment. This means that the vast majority of countries that produce a constant stream of players for European clubs rarely see these talents in domestic leagues. This does little to encourage fans to go and watch the games live. And that completes a sharp but vicious circle, because it means that, yes, the clubs are fighting horribly for the investment.

A Super League would solve some of these problems. A better TV deal, at the very least, would allow clubs to invest in infrastructure. It could help nurture young talent and keep it a bit longer. It doesn’t seem impossible to me that a Pan-African league could compete with one of the talent-generating leagues in Europe – the Netherlands or Portugal, for example – for quality in a relatively short period of time.

Of course, there is a thorny issue that I have not yet had the courage to raise. I think I could come up with a pretty compelling list of around 20 African teams that would have good reason to be included, either through history, support, or location. But I guess Infantino and CAF, now run by one of his staunch allies, might have a different system in mind?

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