Goal project still going strong

At its meeting in Nassau in the Bahamas of 2 June 2009, the FIFA Goal Bureau approved no fewer than 27 new projects. This has taken the total tally so far to a staggering 393 projects approved in 193 member associations since the Goal programme was launched in 1999, with around $158m invested.

These projects can be classified as follows: 90 in Asia, 115 in Africa, 61 in North, Central America and the Caribbean, 22 in South America, 20 in Oceania and 75 in Europe. And no fewer than 235 of these projects have been completed to date, with 24 finished and 11 inaugurated since the last meeting of the Goal Bureau in October 2008.

For a closer look at how a Goal project works, FIFA.com spoke to individuals with first-hand experience of the initiative. Sombo Izetta Wesley, President of the Liberian Football Association, is charged with steering the course of football in the first country to have benefitted from a project, way back in 2000. Jeffrey Webb, for his part, is president of the Cayman Islands Football Association, who are set to host the initiative's very latest project, which was unveiled on 4 June by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter.

FIFA.com: Can you tell us about your respective Goal projects?
Jeffrey Webb (JW):
This Goal project was part of an overall scheme: we began work on a Centre of Excellence. The first phase consisted of building a headquarters for the Cayman Islands FA, which was officially opened by President Blatter on Thursday 4 June. The second phase, which involves installing the first of three proposed international-standard pitches, is starting now. Finally, the third phase will include the construction of a technical centre with on-site lodgings and all the requisite facilities.

Sombo Izetta Wesley (SIW): First of all I'd like to thank FIFA for the Goal Programme initiative. Goal I gave us a pitch. I'm very proud to have been the first recipient of a Goal project. It was in 2000/01, shortly after the Goal Programme was first launched.

How have these projects helped football in your countries to develop?
JW:
It's the first time in Cayman Islands football history that we've had a headquarters, which is important. The pitches and the technical centre will enable us to hold courses for coaches and referees, which FIFA will also help us with.

SIW: If you'd seen the pitch that we had before... There were stones everywhere, it was unusable. The Goal project enabled us to artificially resurface the pitch. Having a good playing surface is important because it allows us to improve our development work, with a knock-on effect on our football and our players. Not to mention the fact that it helps avoid injuries as well as damage to equipment, which also saves money.

And how do you envisage the future of these projects?
JW:
It's a long-term project which was initially thought-up years ago by the former heads of the association. As far as my administration is concerned, making this vision reality is historic and naturally we're honoured to be overseeing it. My goal is to develop football in the Cayman Islands in a realistic way, to improve the overall standard and give opportunities to young boys and girls who want to play. Eventually, I'd love us to be a competitive force in the Caribbean and CONCACAF.

SIW: It's a bit different for us because we've already benefitted from other Goal projects since 2000. Our second Goal project in 2007 consisted of renewing the pitch, because the original artificial playing surface had been overused for six years. That's because everybody in Liberia, whatever their sport, wanted to use this pitch. What is more, the quality of artificial surfaces has improved since then. So we renovated the Antoinette Tubman stadium. The 'new' stadium was subsequently inspected by FIFA experts and we've been using it since. And then we'll have a third Goal project: a complete technical centre on the outskirts of Monrovia with lodgings, a clinic etc. That will allow us to hold a host of activities including courses, meetings and training camps.

Globally speaking, what do you feel the Goal Programme brings to national associations?
JW:
It's very simple, without the vision of President Blatter and the various FIFA initiatives (Goal, Win in CONCACAF with CONCACAF, etc), we, like many other associations, could never have brought these development projects to fruition. Therefore our football would not have been able to progress. So all we can do is thank FIFA. It's also why I'm infinitely proud and honoured that President Blatter, who initiated this Programme, came to inaugurate our project.

SIW: Jeffrey is right, you can't imagine the number of countries that rely on Goal projects. Particularly poor countries that wouldn't be able to develop football in their country without Goal. It's a programme that pulls all member associations upwards and which gives them responsibility: it's not about just money but a complete project which FIFA initiate and then let us manage. These facilities are for a lifetime so one must look after them and improve them over time.