CAIRO: Gianni Infantino has insisted that FIFA has stepped into African football only to help and has rejected a claim the world federation has taken a “colonialist” attitude towards its crippled governing confederation.

Last month the CAF executive asked for help after a string of scandals and administrative faux pas and FIFA duly appointed its Senegalese secretary general, Fatma Samoura, to undertake a ninth-month secondment.

The move followed corruption allegations against CAF president Ahmad Ahmad which he has denied and disgraced ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter described it as a “new aspect of colonialism”.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino

However Infantino, after the CAF exco confirmed the FIFA takeover, said: “I am puzzled by this description. What does it mean, colonialism? I don’t know. It’s not part of my vocabulary.

“I know what it means to work, to team up, to roll up your sleeves, to go on the pitch and help and that is what we are doing. Samoura’s heart is beating for Africa and we all suffer when we see what is going on here.”

Trust factor

Infantino said it was important that African football had competitions where “people trust the organisation, where the stadium is secure and it is safe, where matches are not manipulated, where people trust the referees — these are some of the issues that African football is facing.”

Infantino added that CAF needed to think about growing the sport in the region without depending on FIFA handouts.

He said: “The point is to generate revenues for African football from Africa”

Ahmad was reported in March to FIFA’s ethics committee by CAF general secretary Amr Fahmy, who was then fired.

Further allegations of fraud have recently been made against Ahmad, who was detained and questioned by French authorities in June as part of a corruption investigation.

The outcome of the CAF Champions League final, played in May, is being considered by the Court of Arbitration of Spot after Wydad of Morocco walked off the pitch in protest at a refereeing decision which favoured Esperance of Tunisia.

Ahmad, in a speech to the CAF general assembly, said it had been his decision to ask for FIFA’s help.

He said: “When I went to ask for help, I found a man (Infantino) well aware of the problems of Africa, I found a man who loves Africa and his behaviour proves it.

A number of other major decisions include converting the finals of the African Champions League and Confederation Cup from two leg ties to a single-match event plus an expansion of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations from eight to 12 teams.