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Motsepe on the CAF campaign trail rubs shoulders with Infantino in Cameroon

On the side lines of the 2021 African Nations Championship (CHAN) in Cameroon, Patrice Motsepe has been courting national FA presidents in a bid to strengthen his candidature for the Confederation of African Football (CAF) presidential elections.

The hosts Cameroon kicked off the continental tournament that unites the best domestic-based African players with a 1-0 win over Zimbabwe in front of a socially distanced crowd in Yaounde. The curtain raiser however provided the backdrop for political intrigue on the touchline.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino was among the spectators in attendance, alongside CAF’s new honorary president Issa Hayatou and the country’s prime Ministe Joseph Ngute. The FIFA president jetted in last Friday when Hayatou, who was ousted as CAF president in 2017 by Ahmad Ahmad with the backing of Infantino, was belatedly recognised as honorary president of the African governing body.

On social media photos, Infantino was seen smiling during the ceremony for Hayatou, but the irony will not have been missed by many observers. Behind the scenes, it looks like the FIFA supremo was manoeuvring his preferred candidate for the next CAF presidential elections in March into pole position. South Africa’s Patrice Motsepe also spent the weekend in Cameroon.

The billionaire businessman, who made his fortune in mining and who emerged as a surprise candidate in the race for the top job in African football, recently campaigned in Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Togo and Benin, a tour which Nigerian Football Federation president Amaju Pinnick in a statement described as “an all-inclusive campaign in which the aforementioned countries’ FA Presidents joined the team to promote Mr Motsepe as an ideal candidate to lead CAF to what we want the continental body to be – and that is to compete globally as an equal partner.”

Pinnick and Jordaan have been cheerleading Motsepe’s campaign ever since he launched his candidature last November. His extensive business network could give African football a boost and lead the continent’s game potentially to a more sustainable commercial future, but Motsepe’s own motives remain shrouded in mystery.

Pinnick added: “Here is a businessman doing business in more than 41 African countries and employing the youth of Africa. His vision is to take African football to the next stage, he will make a huge difference and making him Africa’s preferred candidate for CAF President’s position is a no brainer.”

The opening weekend of CHAN provided Motsepe with the ideal platform to campaign as the majority of the continent’s 54 FA presidents were in attendance. Motsepe will turn his attention to both the COSAFA and CECAFA block in the next few weeks.

However, CAF still require further eligibility checks for Motsepe as well as Mauritanian FA president Ahmed Yahya before they are cleared to run in the election. A hearing is set to take place on January 28. The South African hasn’t offered any statement on CAF’s decision to extend his eligibility check.

However, on Friday the CAF executive committee ratified the decision of the emergency committee: “The Governance Committee of CAF shall submit, to the FIFA Review Committee, which will performa the eligibility check of the candidatures received for the position of CAF president, considering that CACAF President is ex officio FIFA vice-president…

“The Governance Committee of CAF together with the FIFA Review Committee must determine as soon as possible a date for formalizing the final list of all the candidates for all the elections.”

CAF has already green lighted the candidacy of both FSF president Augustin Senghor from Senegal and Ivory Coast’s Jacques Anouma for the presidential elections which will take place in March in Rabat.

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