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FIFA President Gianni Infantino arrives today on campaign visit to Belize

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Posted: Tuesday, August 30, 2022. 2:06 pm CST.

Photo Credit: Fenifut Nicaragua

By Rubén Morales Iglesias: FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s and a high-level delegation arrive in Belize today on a two-day visit after visiting Costa Rica and Nicaragua this week.

In Costa Rica, Infantino not only attended the final of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, but he also opened a football field funded by FIFA’s Forward Program. In Nicaragua, he looked at the advances the Nicaraguan Football Federation (Fenifut) has made with the FIFA Forward Program and infrastructure development including the modernization of the National Stadium in Managua.

Though the Football Federation of Belize (FFB) has been tight-lipped as to the reason for Infantino’s visit and his agenda, it is generally believed that he is visiting Belize as part of his campaign to get reelected in 2023 and gain votes for his idea of a biennial World Cup.

That also means that the FFB stands to gain from this visit.

When Breaking Belize News (BBN) inquired as to the reason for Infantino’s visit we were advised to ask him when he meets the media for 15 minutes on Wednesday, which is more than likely at the end of his short stay.

Infantino is surely coming to lobby support for his reelection at the FIFA Elections in 2023 and for his idea of a biennial World Cup which will be voted on at the 72nd FIFA Congress this year. Infantino needs to garner more than 50 percent of the votes from the 211 member countries for his brainchild idea of a World Cup every two years to become a reality, but with the European Football Union (UEFA) and the South American Confederation (CONMEBOL) that is not so easy.

The FFB being mum is not a strange thing, particularly when it comes to high-level football politics, and this is the highest level it can ever get in Belize. Just look at the composition of Infantino’s entourage.

He is being accompanied by Pierluigi Collina, the former Italian referee who was considered to be the best in the world and was voted FIFA’s “Best Referee of the Year” six times back-to-back, Arsène Wenger the man who managed British club Arsenal for 22 years from 1996 to 2018, and Jill Ellis who led the United States women’s national football team to two consecutive FIFA Women’s World Cup titles in 2015 and 2019.

Collina is now the Chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee, Wenger is the Director of Global Football Development, and Ellis is the leader of the Technical Advisory Group for women’s football.

Infantino’s delegation also includes Pedro Chaluja, FIFA Council Member; Mattias Grafström, Deputy General Secretary Football; Carlos Cordeiro, Advisor to the FIFA President; Onofre Costa, Advisor to the FIFA President; Jair Bertoni, Director of Member Associations – Americas Branch; and Federico Raviglione, Senior President’s Office Manager.

But as any experienced politician, Infantino has already made sure that the FFB and other countries are on his side by financing quite a number of their programs, which of course is what FIFA should be doing anyway. Lately, the FFB has been getting quite a bit of support for its national team programs under the FIFA Forward banner and FIFA has hailed the FFB’s work with children’s football as exemplary. Over the last few years, the number of both men’s and women’s national teams at different levels competing internationally has increased considerably. In infrastructure, look at the renovations at the FFB Stadium. Plus, just recently the FFB kicked off the FIFA Football for Schools Program with high level football dignitaries present for its launch.

Prior to all of this, in 2017, Infantino already gained small-countries support for his 48-countries World Cup as of 2026. That idea gives smaller countries, Belize included, a better opportunity of qualifying to the World Cup.

So, even if Infantino were to come empty-handed, he has made sure that his arrived ahead of him.

End result: expect the FFB to vote for him to be reelected and for his biennial World Cup.

 

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