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Sunday, 14 January 2024 09:42

Infantino expect a wonderful tournament after attending Afcon 2023 opener.

Staff Reporter.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino thanked Ivory Coast for "uniting Africa and the whole world" after seeing hosts kick off the competition against Guinea. 

Infantino was at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in the capital Abidjan alongside the Ivorian President whom the venue is named after, Confederation of African Football (CAF) President and Fifa Vice President Patrice Motsepe, and a host of dignitaries as well as a large, passionate crowd as the Elephants made a winning start to the tournament.

"The opening game of the historic CAF Africa Cup of Nations 2023 between Ivory Coast and Guinea-Bissau has set the tone for a fantastic tournament that will unite the whole of Africa and indeed the world," said Infantino.

"It was great to see Alassane Ouattara, the President of the Ivory Coast, attend the opening match of what is sure to be a wonderful tournament in this great country. My best wishes are with CAF, led by President Patrice Motsepe; with all the participating nations; and with the people of Africa. I am sure everyone will come together to put on a show the world will remember."

Infantino has been a strong advocate of football development in Africa, and attended matches of the recent African Football League. The project, which was launched last year by CAF with the support of Fifa, is aimed at raising the profile of African clubs, and giving players the opportunity to compete more regularly against the best teams on the continent, as well as increasing commercial and TV revenue in African football.

Before kick-off, Infantino told the crowd the CAF Africa Cup of Nations, which runs to 11 February 2024, would again make the continent the focus of planet football. "Dear President, dear friends, I'm at home here. Welcome to my home in Ivory Coast. You're an extraordinary crowd. I would like to thank you, say thank you to you three times," he said.

"Thank you for welcoming us to your wonderful country. Thank you for organising the best [CAF] Africa Cup of Nations. And thank you for uniting Africa and the whole world around football here in Ivory Coast.

"Dear President, dear friends, for a month, you are at the centre of the world. "Enjoy it, and enjoy the emotions that only football can bring. Thank you once again. Long live Ivory Coast! Long live Africa! And long live football. I wish everyone a great tournament!"

Compiled by Lehlohonolo Lehana.