KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: The first fruits of FIFA’s takeover of the African Football Confederation has been revealed with details of a worldwide live stream of television coverage of the first round of qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup.
In June the executive committee of chaotic CAF, headed by embattled president Ahmad Ahmad, sent the world federation an urgent plea for help after a string of scandals and administrative faux pas. FIFA duly appointed its Senegalese secretary general, Fatma Samoura, to undertake a ninth-month secondment.
The move was denounced as a “hostile takeover” by the since-banned former Liberia FA president Musa Bility.
However, within weeks Samoura had issued African member associations with a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ demand to accept a centralised media rights deal for the region’s World Cup qualifiers.
The need for speed was essential because the first round of CAF qualifiers for Qatar start this week, featuring 28 teams competing for 14 slots in the group stage, where the 26 top-ranked teams await.
These opening fixtures include local rivalries between 2019 Africa Cup of Nations participants Burundi and Tanzania and a West African derby between Liberia and Sierra Leone.
A statement from FIFA – not CAF – explained:
FIFA is unveiling a landmark initiative by investing in the production of the broadcasting feed, thus giving fans in Africa and around the world unprecedented access to the African qualifiers. The live streams and on-demand replays of these first-round encounters will be on FIFA.com and FIFA’s YouTube channel.
Bringing this exciting action to a global audience for the first time underscores FIFA’s ongoing digital transformation and its ongoing efforts to support football development in Africa and connect more fans with the beautiful game.
African qualifiers traditionally provide plenty of surprises and memorable matches.
Four of the five African teams at Germany 2006 were debutants at the global finals, including Angola and Togo, who each enter the fray for Qatar 2022 with challenging encounters in the opening qualifying round against Gambia and Comoros respectively.
Thirteen African nations have reached the FIFA World Cup in the competition’s history, with Brazil 2014 marking the first time that two countries from the continent had advanced to the knockout stage in the same edition.
From George Weah and Samuel Eto’o to Mohamed Salah and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, some of the world’s best footballers past and present call Africa home.
**The list of matches to be broadcast will be published on FIFA.com.