El Salvador and Honduras hosted separate Com-Unity seminars this September, with the shared aim to find new avenues to strengthen football in the region.
It remains the dream of many Salvadorians to see their country once again competing on the world stage. Indeed, while their two previous appearances at the FIFA World Cup™, at Mexico 1970 and Spain 1982, are now but a distant memory, the desire to repeat that success was the common denominator among the many groups represented at last month's Com-Unity seminar.
For El Salvador, the first step remains the need to adopt FIFA's statutes before the start of next near. The country's existing legislation in relation to football represents an obstacle, though one which can be removed in the opinion of Roberto Dabuison, president of the state's Tourism, Sport and Youth Committee, who said: "We would have no difficult amending the law if that would help the development of Salvadorian football."
The president of the Salvadorian Football Federation (FESFUT) Rodrigo Calvo, along with Mauricio Caballeros, FIFA's Development Officer for Central America, called on as many sectors as possible to join together in order to achieve this common goal.
The Youth Secretariat and the Ministry of Education also lent their support to promoting participation in football, which is one of the most popular recreational activities in the country's schools and a tool that has been shown to have educational and value-determining benefits. One example of the sport's social commitment in El Salvador is the charity SOS Children's Villages, which presented the results of a recent visit to one of their villages in the Santa Tecla region.
On the day the seminar turned its focus on the role of the media, members of the various sectors of the mass media expressed their willingness to support the game in El Salvador and the many initiatives being undertaken for its development. The attending journalists, for their part, requested that the FESFUT designate a Senior Press Officer and maintain a competent official website.
After the positive outcome of the seminar in El Salvador, Com-Unity moved on to Honduras, where among those assisting was Hector Zelaya, the legendary Catracho midfielder who provided his compatriots one of their proudest footballing moments by giving them the lead against hosts Spain at the 1982 FIFA World Cup.
Currently a UNICEF spokesperson and promoter of the organisation's 'Football for Life' programme, Zelaya delivered an address that was both unambiguous and encouraging: "We're capable of great things, but right now we're living off memories. My hope is that we can leave aside personal interests and join forces to help Honduras appear once again at a World Cup." This message of togetherness and optimism was the underlying sentiment of the three-day congress held in late September.
Also present was Rafael Callejas, the president of the Autonomous National Federation of Honduran Football (FENAFUTH), who announced the launch of the Semillero de Futuro (Sowing Seeds for the Future) project that will be responsible for the construction of playing fields to be used by some 40,000 young people.
The president of the Honduran Congress's Sports Commission, Jose de la Paz Herrera, who coached the national team at Spain 1982, agreed with the proposals outlined at the Com-Unity convention and reiterated the need for a wider social role for the sport.
He highlighted the importance of creating the right social environment for children and young people and the role of football in this regard, before drawing attention to the talent and potential of the country's footballing youth: "We should be optimistic about this, as we're the biggest exporter (of players) in the region."
Honduras, currently 55th in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, has a large number of professional footballers playing in overseas leagues, as well as a passionate base of supporters who remain loyal to the game.
The large emigrant Honduran community currently living in the USA is one of the reasons the national team often play their international games there. The FENAFUTH will continue to allow the country's emigrant community in the USA to follow and support the national team and is also planning to organize a 'Talent Tournament' there with a view to unearthing some of the future stars of Honduran football.
Finally, the attending FIFA delegation visited the SOS Children's Village in Tegucigalpa's Colonia Las Hadas neighbourhood, where former Peruvian legend Teofilo Cubillas thrilled the young residents by joining in a kick-around with them.