FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter was present at the official opening of the Regional Seminar for Presidents, General Secretaries and Technical Directors in Marrakech on Thursday, and gave a speech to representatives of the 27 FIFA member associations from French-, Portuguese- and Spanish-speaking Africa attending the event.
Blatter’s appearance at the seminar, which is taking place in conjunction with the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2013, was a special moment for both the participants and the FIFA President himself, who has been personally involved in setting up many of Africa’s development programmes and has never hidden his affection for the continent.
“I feel at home when I am in Africa. I feel happy here,” he said at the start of his speech. “I am proud to be here talking to you today because it was nearly 40 years ago, in February 1975, that I started working for FIFA, having made the decision in November 1974, the year Joao Havelange was elected president, to devote myself to the development of football.”
Blatter added: “The first course that I had the honour of giving was in Addis Ababa in February 1976, at the start of the CAF African Cup of Nations in Ethiopia. When I look at the document we produced for the occasion, I can see that the world has not changed since then. We set up working groups of four people, made up of an administrator, a coach, a referee and a doctor, the idea being to cover all the essential facets of development, and we still have the same development programmes in place today.”
The foundations for development were laid in 1975, and football’s potential is now being tapped thanks to the resources made available and the range of programmes that have been implemented with a view to promoting the development of the world’s number one sport in every football association.
These programmes, which include the Goal projects, Performance, the FAP (Financial Assistance Programmes) and Win in Africa with Africa, have already borne fruit, and the last area in which FIFA and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) are focusing their combined efforts are the national championships.
“This seminar has given you the opportunity to assess the CAF’s development programmes and the issue of club licences,” CAF President and FIFA vice-president Issa Hayatou said, echoing Blatter’s words. “I can guarantee you that our involvement and investment in this programme is total. FIFA’s Executive Committee has adopted a roadmap for the effective creation of club licences. The CAF, with the unstinting support of FIFA, is ready to provide all the necessary support to help African football become professional.”
Morocco is setting an example in that respect, with 2013 league champions Raja Casablanca qualifying on Wednesday for the final of the prestigious Club World Cup.
“Not so very long ago there were no professional leagues, and now a team has emerged from one of them to reach the final of the FIFA Club World Cup,” Blatter said, who took the opportunity to congratulate the Royal Moroccan Football Association for their organisation of the competition and the seminar.
“I was the very first development officer and like you I remain involved in this development process,” added the FIFA President by way of conclusion. “When you stop developing you stand still, and when you stand still you soon get overtaken.”