FIFA President Gianni Infantino made an historic address to the 32nd Ordinary Assembly of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. His speech to the African Union, which is made up of 55 countries and chaired by President of the Republic of Rwanda Paul Kagame, followed that of Bill Gates, representing the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and marked the first time that any FIFA President had spoken before the Union.
Speaking to the Assembly Gianni Infantino said: “Africa is a continent that has always been very close to my heart. I have fond memories of watching the FIFA World Cup 1982 in Spain, when Cameroon quite seriously challenged my home team Italy, and when Algeria defeated West Germany before West Germany made it to the final against Italy, who won the competition. Football fans around the world were convinced that the African teams would soon reach the level of the best European teams. I’m sad to say that almost 40 years later African teams haven’t been able to make this shift and to reach the final stages of a FIFA World Cup, despite their impressive performances during the FIFA World Cups 2002 and 2010, and more recently during the FIFA World Cup Russia. This situation must change because of the reat passion your continent has for football. Quite simply put, Africa lives football!”
During his speech the FIFA President discussed the 2026 FIFA World Cup and received an enthusiastic reaction from the Assembly on the expansion of the number of African teams participating in it, which will increase from five in 2018 to 9.5 in 2026.
President Infantino was keen to stress the importance of football giving back to Africa during his address saying: “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.