FIFA president: I want to understand Africa's football needs

Fifa president Gianni Infantino has said that his working visit to Nigeria was part of his administration's determination to take grassroots football development to various national associations across the world, especially in Africa.

Before his departure from Nigeria on Monday night, the 46-year-old urged fans and stakeholders to look beyond results on the pitch in assessing the leadership performance of the Nigeria Football Federation.

While describing President Muhammadu Buhari as a big supporter of football following a meeting at the Presidential Villa, Infantino tasked various federation presidents in the continent to get busy with football activities rather than its politics.

"We have had several reforms and hired a woman secretary general from Africa. We are for the first time accountable for our actions and we will live with that," Infantino said.

"For the fact that 18 federation presidents came to Abuja to discuss with me how we can restore the future of football development, this shows that there is a great belief among the football community that we are on the right track. To focus on football activities rather than politics.

"When it comes to financial situation, the NFF president can speak more about that than me.

"As far as I'm concerned, I see the president of the country as a fan of football who wants to help the football association in terms of support. And I think together we can help when it comes to finances in particular. Fifa is increasing financial support and investment for national associations.

"Instead of 300 or 400 million dollars given till now, we have increased it to 1.3 to 1.5 billion dollars for each association every year compared to before. This will be four times more than what is coming every year in the past.

"When it comes to Nigeria football, let me say one thing that it is the same everywhere. Everyone is critical and everyone is criticizing when result is not there and many other issues.

"We can judge the work of a football federation based on whether the ball hit the post or enters into the goal. This is not the measure that we need to use in judging the federation.

"You need to judge it on the work they are doing in the development of football. Don't forget one thing that you're world champions at the U17. There are not many countries in the world which are world champions. And you should be proud of it."

On Africa, the former UEFA general secretary insists there were no developmental problem in the continent, though lamented Caf's inactivity and over reliance on Fifa, but however proposed fresh strategies to stimulate growth.

"There is no problem in developing football in Africa, I think what is needed in Africa as well is the concrete action. We have to change our mentality at Fifa, thinking we can simply manage the world from an office in Zurich. But it is wrong.

"We have to be on ground and speak with the people. That's why I'm coming here to speak to each individual president in Africa because Pinnick knows better than I do what Nigeria needs more.

"We need to create talior-made projects of what various countries need. It is possible that one country needs a stadium or a technical centre and another is just structure for competitions.

"We would be ready in Burundi for human and financial resources. If we do this, create a talior-made project for each association. We, myself and all our team will watch that what is in the contract with individual association is implemented and practiced.

"So that when I come next time in one year or two years' time, I can tell you completely what is happening in each African country in terms of football development. And then Africa will move really to the next level," he concluded.

During his two-day visit working visit, Infantino met several government officials including the Senate President Bukola Saraki and NFF factional president Chris Giwa.
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