Rock Balakiyem Gnassingbe was elected President of the Togolese Football Association in January 2009, bringing to an end two years of uncertainty. This is not the first time Mr Gnassingbe has held the position, however. During his first period in office the Sparrowhawks qualified for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™ and three CAF African Cup of Nations in 2000, 2002 and 2006. Mr Gnassingbe has just made his first visit to FIFA, and after thanking FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter for helping to restore calm to Togolese football, he spoke to FIFA.com.
FIFA.com: Mr Gnassingbe, what is the purpose of your visit to FIFA?
Rock Balakiyem Gnassingbe: I have come to express my gratitude to the FIFA President for the very active role he played in resolving the crisis that has been affecting the Togolese FA for the last two years. He did a lot on a political level to sort out the problem and the least I could do was to come here and thank him in person.
What is your objective as the new president?
I was elected in January and Togolese football has been paralysed for the last two years because of the crisis we had. My goal is to get things working again, of course, and that's something we've already started to do. The championship has got going again and we're about to play the tenth round of games in the first division. I can see things gradually getting back to normal.
Do you think the Sparrowhawks can repeat their feat of 2006 and qualify for South Africa 2010?
You cannot live without hope and I would definitely say that the national team can do what they did in 2006 and reach the World Cup finals in 2010. But there is no secret to it. You have to work for it because only by working can you achieve things.
Emmanuel Adebayor is a huge star now. How much does having a player like him help the development of Togolese football?
Adebayor is a great driving force for Togolese football. It is impossible to ignore him. He is a huge source of inspiration for youngsters and other players, but we do have some other fantastic footballers in Europe such as Adekanmi Olufade in Belgium and Thomas Dossevi, Alayxis Romao and Floyd Ayte in France, just to name a few. Together they want to prove that qualification in 2006 was not a fluke and they really respond to each other when they meet up. It's so good to see.
You have a crucial match coming up against Gabon in June. What are your views on that game?
There are no easy games and our group is a very tight one. We need to take every single match seriously, prepare for them well, not take them lightly and respect our opponents. Obviously, the match against Gabon in Libreville in June will not be a friendly kickabout.
Thanks to the Win in Africa with Africa programme you now have an artificial pitch in place. How much of an impact is that going to have?
The artificial pitch will no doubt help improve standards in Togolese football. Everyone in Togo wants to play on the pitch. I must say that FIFA has got things just right with the 'Win in Africa with Africa' programme, which provides every country on the continent with an artificial pitch.