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Fifa boss Gianni Infantino gets to see Mzansi’s beautiful game through his own eyes at Soweto derby and AFL final

FIFA President Gianni Infantino during the African Football League 2023 Final match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Waydad at the Loftus Stadium, Pretoria

Fifa president Gianni Infantino was in the country to see South African football at its best during the Soweto derby and African Football League (AFL) final over the weekend. Picture: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Published Nov 14, 2023


At a time when South Africa’s bid for the 2027 Fifa Women’s World Cup is gaining traction, the Soweto derby and the inaugural African Football League (AFL) final have showcased Mzansi football like never before.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino was there to see South African football at its best. What Infantino experienced in the country will work wonders for the Women’s World Cup bid.

On Saturday afternoon, Infantino attended the Soweto derby between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs, along with CAF president Patrice Motsepe and Safa president Danny Jordaan.

The match was a sold-out affair with 87 000 fans in the venue that hosted the 2010 Fifa World Cup final, and the Swiss-Italian football administrator said it was “an incredible experience”.

“This Soweto derby; it was a first for me,” said Infantino.

“A full house, incredible crowd. I had forgotten how emotional this stadium is, but also in the city … When I arrived, everyone was looking forward to this game. So, it’s a great game, great atmosphere, great passion, incredible, incredible fans.”

Waxing lyrical

He had a special word of praise for the host club, Chiefs, whom he said had done a terrific job to create a wonderful atmosphere in the stadium. On Sunday, Infantino attended the second leg of the AFL final between South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns FC and Moroccan powerhouse Wydad Athletic Club. This clash brought the curtain down on the first AFL tournament.

Infantino was the dynamic figure behind this event, saying it could transform the game in Africa.

Before the kick-off, Infantino said: “The AFL is a great event. Football must become much more global than what it is, and football, of course, unites the world. For this, we are here.”

Motsepe and Jordaan also met Infantino to discuss the development of football in South Africa, and the weekend events would have enhanced the country’s standing in the eyes of Fifa’s head honcho.

Matches that speak volumes

“As much as we put our case that this is Africa’s time and that we have all that it takes to host a very successful World Cup, it is events like these (the Soweto derby and AFL final in South Africa) that speak volumes of our capacity to stage mega-events. South Africa can be very proud of its hosting skills,” said Jordaan.

“We have done it before, and we want to do it for the continent once more.”

Jordaan said Africa had made a compelling case that if there was going to be fair treatment and equality in the game universally, the continent should be given the right to host the 2027 showpiece.

South Africa is one of the four bidders for the 2027 Fifa Women’s World Cup along with Brazil and joint bids from Mexico and the US, and then Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.

The winner will be decided by a vote of Fifa member associations at a congress in Bangkok, Thailand, in May next year.

IOL Sport