Recently elected head of the Gabonese Football Association (FGF), President Placide Engandzas visited FIFA headquarters in Zurich with a delegation of FGF officials on Wednesday 4 March. He was welcomed there by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter and FIFA directors Jerome Champagne and Thierry Regenass, and after they met together President Engandzas agreed to speak with FIFA.com.
FIFA.com: Mr. Engandzas, what brings you to the Home of FIFA?
Placide Engandzas: Firstly, because in the wake of my election I wanted to present my respects to the FIFA President. Beyond that, we came to talk to him about our programme of action for the development of football in our country. We took advantage of our visit to compliment him on the work he's doing for football in Africa, and especially Gabon. FIFA have helped us bring several projects to completion, such as a training centre, an artificial pitch and a new headquarters, as well as organising seminars and donating equipment. We wanted to thank the President for all those reasons. We assured him he has the support of the FGF and our country's highest authorities.
How would you assess the state of football in Gabon at the moment?
Right now, football is a work in progress, but we're still ranked 11th in Africa. We're there thanks to the help I spoke to you about before. Better organisation, the establishment of infrastructures and the training of officials all lead us to believe football has progressed in our country. But this progress has not yet reached an end point. We're aiming high and we'll get there.
What still needs to be done for you to achieve your goals?
Our highest priority is youth football. We need to build training centres; we already have a successful school at Port-Gentil and now we need to build more throughout the country. By doing so, we'll be able to have more control over training and prepare the next generation for football at the highest level. After that, to confirm our progress, we want to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations and the World Cup.
Speaking of the qualifiers for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, you are in a tough group with Cameroon, Morocco and Togo. Do you think it is possible to go through?
We respect all our opponents, who've each been to at least one World Cup. But we think the time has come for Gabon to reach a World Cup. We have a fantastic coach in Alain Giresse, good players and a government that supports the national team, so we're ready to go to South Africa.
What would qualification mean to your country?
It would be the culmination of the work we've been doing for several years, encouraged by everyone involved in football in our country and the President of the Republic, Omar Bongo. It would obviously be a historic moment. With the Association working together with the coach and the Minister for Youth and Sports, we're all geared to bringing about this historic feat. It's true that we're up against some great teams, but we also want be a great team.