HARARE, Zimbabwe, Feb 19- FIFA President Gianni Infantino will be in Zimbabwe at the same time as a regional meeting which has drawn criticism from the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
Infantino has accepted an invitation from Zimbabwe FA president Philip Chiyangwa to visit the country.
In December, Chiyangwa was elected chairman of the Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA). CAF recently claimed that a planned COSAFA meeting on 24 February is ‘an attempt to destabilise’ the African body.
“Convening a meeting with representatives of many member associations outside the Cosafa zone is deemed to represent an attempt to destabilise Caf,” the organisation added.
Chiyangwa has also invited other African FA Presidents to the gathering.
The COSAFA region encompasses Madagascar, whose FA head Ahmad Ahmad is the sole challenger to Issa Hayatou in next month’s CAF Presidential elections.
COSAFA has already pledged its vote, which encompasses 14 members, to Ahmad, who is looking to dethrone Hayatou, the Cameroonian who has led CAF since 1988.
Appointed FIFA president twelve months ago, Infantino will visit Zimbabwe shortly after attending the world governing body’s summit in South Africa between 21-23 February.
“This will take place in connection with my trip to South Africa for the FIFA Executive Summits in Johannesburg,” Infantino wrote in a letter dated 15 February to Chiyangwa.
“I will be arriving in Harare on Thursday 23 February and leaving on Friday 24 February,” he added in a letter seen by the BBC.
“I have no doubt that this visit will help us to lay the foundations for further fruitful cooperation and to share our personal visions for the continued development of our sport in your country.”
After receiving Caf’s letter, Chiyangwa wrote back to complain about its tone while also denying any attempt to destabilise African football’s governing body.
“The informal gathering styled as ‘Dr Philip Chiyangwa Birthday and Cosafa Presidency Victory celebration’ in Harare scheduled for 24 February is merely my belated birthday celebration,” the Zimbabwean wrote.
“I also intend, on the same occasion, to celebrate my ascendancy to the Cosafa presidency.”
Earlier this week, Ahmad unveiled his election manifesto which highlighted a desire for improved governance, citing a commitment to increased transparency and reinvestment.
Ahmad is considered the most serious challenger in years to Hayatou, who was re-elected unopposed in 2013. The Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa will host the CAF elections on 16 March.