FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter has made the journey to Madagascar this week to unveil two new facilities that have been built thanks to the FIFA Goal Project: the National Academy in Carion and the Stade Municipal Rabemanajara in Mahajanga.
Flying in from South Africa to the capital Antananarivo on Tuesday afternoon, the FIFA delegation received a warm welcome from the Madagascan Prime Minister, Camille Vital; the Minister for Sport, Virapin Ramamonjisoa; the Minister for Communication, Nathalie Rabe; and the President of the Madagascan Football Association (FMF), Mr Ahmad. On his arrival Blatter said he was delighted to be in Madagascar and to be welcomed in such a way.
His official visit to Madagascar, the world’s fourth largest island, is the first by a FIFA President since the 1980s, when Joao Havelange held the post. After enjoying an official dinner at the Iavoloha Presidential Palace with the Madagascan President, Andry Nirina, on Tuesday evening, Blatter and the FIFA party travelled to Carion the following morning to open the National Academy.
Funded by the Goal Programme and able to accommodate 82 players, the Academy boasts a dormitory, a canteen, medical facilities, meeting rooms and offices, all of them ready to use. All that remains to be put in place is the pitch itself, which will be installed in the coming months. “I am very satisfied with the hard work the FMF has put in since the creation of the Academy,” said Ramamonjisoa a few weeks ago.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, where he was joined by Mme Vital, Mr Ahmad, the Mayor of Carion and a representative from the French embassy, Blatter highlighted the important role that world’s most popular sport has to play today. “Football is a means of integration,” he said. “Football has a crucial social and cultural role to play in so far as it has the power to bring people together and build bridges between them.”
The fact that two thirds of Madagascar’s 20 million inhabitants live below the international poverty line of $1.25 a day underlines the importance of projects such as these.
Next stop Mahajanga
The opening was followed by a press conference in which Blatter offered his congratulations to Madagascar. “The work that has been carried out in this fast-developing country is truly remarkable,” he commented. “FIFA started this project but you, the people of Madagascar, have made it work.”
The President of world football’s governing body also thanked the French government for co-funding the project, as well as the Madagascan FA and local stakeholders for their involvement in the initiative.
From Carion the delegation travelled on to Mahajanga for the day’s second FIFA Goal project unveiling, that of the Stade Municipal Alexandre Rabemanajara, where an artificial pitch has been laid.