Congo DR Football Association (FECOFA) President Constant Omari Selemani paid a visit to FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter in Zurich on Friday, having originally travelled to Switzerland to take in some of the action from UEFA EURO 2008. A trained engineer specialising in railway construction, the 50-year-old has climbed the football ladder rung by rung after, in his own words, first becoming involved "in football" in 1996. As well as heading FECOFA, he has been a member of the CAF Disciplinary Board and the FIFA Disciplinary Committee since 2001, and he happily agreed to answer a few questions for FIFA.com.
FIFA.com: Mr. Omari, could you tell us a bit more about the
reasons for your visit to FIFA Headquarters?
Constant Omari Selemani: I came to visit President Blatter, to say hello and bring to his attention a certain number of problems affecting my association. I also made special mention of the qualification of my women's U-20 team for the World Cup in Chile at the end of this year and I caught up with the latest FIFA news!
Congo DR have started well in their qualifying campaign for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. Are you satisfied so far?
It's been a good start. Losing 2-1 to reigning African champions Egypt is nothing to be ashamed of, especially as the team put in a very good performance. Then we won at home against Malawi before going on to beat Djibouti 6-0 away from home, which put us second in the group. This Sunday, we take on the Djiboutians again, this time at home, and we hope to go top!
Patrice Neveu is the new coach; what has he been asked to achieve?
The goals we have set Patrice Neveu are clear. Firstly, getting the national team back on its feet. We didn't qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations, so we need to rebuild. After that, we have to try to qualify for the 2010 World Cup and then the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations in Angola.
A large number of your internationals play in Europe. Do
you see that as an advantage or a disadvantage?
There must be 80 per cent of our internationals playing abroad. That's a lot. But there's plenty of reasons for that. First of all, all the good African players - or most of them - leave for Europe, where they benefit from better training and better infrastructure. Once there, they naturally stay a notch above the local players who live with problems relating to organisation, training etc. As a result, having players abroad is an asset for our national team. But in terms of development, it's a weakness, because the success of African players in Europe doesn't benefit the local leagues enough. We need to come up with ideas on how to develop local leagues and, through that, have national teams with a local spine.
One of Congo DR's most stunning recent successes has
been the second consecutive qualification of the women's U-20
side for the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup. How do you explain
Women's football was a little bit taboo. It wasn't easy to get girls to play football. We started up a national league for women's football. After the first qualification for the U-20 Women's World Cup in 2006, we organised the Women's Congo Cup, based on teams drawn from the provinces. After qualifying for Russia 2006, it had a knock-on effect, with lots of young girls discovering they had a vocation. That enthusiasm has borne fruit, little by little, which explains how we managed to qualify for the second time in a row this year.