LIBREVILLE: South Sudan has been admitted to membership of the Confederation of African Football which means it will, in due course, become the 209th member of world federation FIFA.
Africa’s football body accepted the application by the South Sudan Football Association to become its 54th member at its general assembly on the eve of the African Nations Cup Final between Zambia and Ivory Coast.
South Sudan gained independence in April 2011 and was welcomed into the football family by CAF president Issa Hayatou who said: “We are proud to have you as a member and now we would like to see you in our tournaments.”
Reviewing the Nations Cup, Hayatou was positive about the concept of co-hosting. He said: “Co-hosting allows all countries in Africa to host the Cup of Nations. The regulations say that the competition has to be played in four stadiums. If countries co-host, then even smaller countries can host the tournament.”
Explaining why the competition was held every two years, unlike the European and South American championships, Hayatou said: “We are doing that deliberately to improve the infrastructure throughout the continent. If countries host the Africa Cup of Nations, they will have stadiums when the tournament is completed.
“But we have no plans to increase the number of finalists to 24. If we did that then countries will struggle to host the tournament. Only a few would be able to do that and we want to give most countries a chance.”
FIFA president Sepp Blatter repeated his standard homily on the strengths and limitations of football. He said: “The world is disturbed politically and socially and football can’t be a bulwark against all of this. We are introducing football into education and also into health programmes but football cannot solve problems beyond those of football.
“Our game has 22 players, 11 each side, three referees, time limits, a ball and lines for the field. That we can control. But outside of football there are no time limits and no referee. We can only call for respect and fair play and we try to pass this on to society, but it is not easy.”
Turning to African football, Blatter said: “Being here is like an anniversary for me. It was an honour for me to present the FIFA global development programme at the time, which was then funded by Coca-Cola and Adidas, because FIFA had no money for that at the time.
“I remember that Issa Hayatou was present at that meeting as general secretary of the Cameroon delegation.”