HARARE - Fifa president Gianni Infantino has confirmed his visit to Zimbabwe next Friday to attend Zifa president Philip Chiyangwa’s birthday celebrations.
Infantino will join other football heads from across the African continent to celebrate with Chiyangwa, who will also be toasting his ascendency to the Cosafa top post.
The Fifa boss’ confirmation will come as a major blow to Confederation of African Football (Caf) president Issa Hayatou, who has taken offence to Chiyangwa’s gathering as a coup d’état.
Chiyangwa has openly declared allegiance to Madagascar Football Association Ahmad Ahmad, who will be going against Hayatou at next month’s Caf presidency election.
“I would like to thank you for your letter dated January 8, 2017 and for your kind invitation to visit your country this month,” Infantino said.
“I am very pleased to confirm my visit. This will take place in connection with my trip to South Africa for the Fifa Executive Summits in Johannesburg, which will take place from February 21 to 23, 2017.
“I will be arriving in Harare on Thursday, February 23, 2017 at around 18:00 and leaving on February 24.”
The Fifa boss, who rose into power last year after the demise of Sepp Blatter, is optimistic the trip will foster football development in Zimbabwe.
“I have no doubt that this visit will help us lay the foundations for further fruitful corporation and to share our personal visions for the continued development of our sport in your country,” he said.
“I wish you every success in your upcoming endeavours and look forward to seeing you very soon in Harare.”
After learning of Chiyangwa’s plan to host fellow football heads in Harare, Hayatou last week instructed Caf general secretary Hicham Al Amrani to write to the Zifa president warning him of possible sanctions if the celebrations go ahead.
Chiyangwa in turn responded to the Caf boss this week strenuously denying he had intentions of destabilising the continental body.
“The informal gathering styled as ‘...Chiyangwa Birthday and Cosafa Presidency Victory celebration’ in Harare scheduled for February 24, 2017 is merely my belated birthday celebration as I was born on February 3, and I also intend, on the same occasion, to celebrate my ascendency to the Cosafa presidency,” Chiyangwa said.
“This in my view does not violate any football statutes. It is personal matter: as for my birthday, my family and I do this yearly without fail.”
This bold move by the Zifa president of openly challenging the long-serving Hayatou has won him many admirers across the continent.
Many football fans want to see the Cameroonian’s reign as Caf president come to an end.
The 71-year-old Hayatou came to office in 1988 and next month at the Caf General Assembly will be seeking an eighth term in office.