TIMOTHY OLOBULO / AIPS in KIGALI: A senior African football official has denied that there is any connection between the FIFA presidential election and the new development agreement with the the confederation.

Hicham El Amrani, general secretary of the Confederation of African Football, said a Memorandum of Understanding signed in Kigali on Friday should not be misunderstood.

The agreement was signed by CAF president and acting FIFA head Issa Hayatou alongside his AFC counterpart Shaikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, signalling a start of a new four year partnership.

Sheikh Salman is hoping to be elected FIFA president at an extraordinary congress on February 26 and the CAF/AFC agreement has been assessed in some quarters as an attempt by Sheikh Salman to woo African votes.

El Amrani said: “This is something that has been in the pipeline for a long time and did not pop up yesterday. It is not whatsoever linked to politics.

“Those who want to look at it that way can do so but for us, we are solely focused on the purpose, and that is to harness partnerships between Africa and Asia.”

Coaching concerns

He added it was only prudent Africa partners with Asia, as it had already done so with UEFA and CONCACAF on various aspects of the game.

El Amrani added: “Every confederation has something to offer to us and we also have something to offer with them. Asia will be particularly of help to us in matters of coaching.

“In the years before, AFC has not recognized CAF coaching badges and signing this agreement will see that change.”

The confederations will partner in the sharing of information, experience, initiating high level competitions, conducting joint technical development programs in various fields such as: Coaching, refereeing, youth football, women’s football, integrity, administration, marketing, media and innovative technologies.

Hayatou said: “This will be beneficial to the two Confederations after several months of work. The first four years will strengthen, intensify cooperation and strengthen the capacity of various stakeholders in Africa and Asia.

“This is an opportunity that will further contribute to African football development.”

Sheikh’s aspirations

Sheikh Salman said “Africa and Asia are two great continents. Two great football continents who have made a dramatic impact on the global football stage in this century. Both of us have aspirations and expectations of staging future tournaments not only the World Cup but also in women and age group competitions.”

The agreement was signed as CAF launched the fourth edition of the African Nations Championship (CHAN) which start this weekend in Kigali, Rwanda.

The CHAN tournament was established in 2009 by CAF for African players playing in their own local leagues and is seen as a mini African Cup of Nations.

Almamy Camara, president of the local organizing committee and a CAF executive committee member, said: “Since the first edition of the tournament in 2009, we have seen tremendous growth.

“We started with eight teams when we had the tournament in Ivory Coast but later, added to 16 when we saw the excitement it had brought. We have faith that Rwanda will give us a memorable tournament.”