New Tunisian Football Federation (FTF) President Ali Hafsi Jeddi visited the Home of FIFA in Zurich today to meet with FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter. “We saw each other during the World Cup in South Africa and agreed to meet again in Zurich to talk about Tunisian football,” explained the businessman, who headed his country’s national football league (LNF) before being elected FTF President in May.
Speaking with FIFA.com, Mr Jeddi came across as both affable and enthusiastic as he discussed giving football fresh impetus in Tunisia.
FIFA.com: Mr Jeddi, what subjects came up in your meeting with President Blatter?
Ali Hafsi Jeddi: We spoke about the promotion of football in Tunisia in general. More specifically, we mentioned the Goal II project, a technical centre for referees in Tunis, and its financing. This new centre will make it possible for referees to meet up, work together and go through videos. We also touched on the 2015 U-17 and U-20 World Cups, which we would like to bid for. President Blatter encouraged us to do precisely that. If we could get to host one of those events, it would enable us to work in the medium- and long-term on youth football.
After qualifying for three consecutive FIFA World Cups™ (1998, 2002 and 2006), Tunisia missed out on South Africa 2010 and it seems that the Tunisian top flight is struggling a little too. How do you explain that?
Tunisian football has been suffering a little for the last three years. We need to work on two main areas: improving youth training to raise the standard of youth sides, and increasing the quality of our national championship. At the moment, we don’t have enough locally-based players who can contribute to the national team. There are few big clubs in Tunisia – perhaps two in total – and we need more than that to lift the general standard. Also, to have a good league you need good men in black, which is why we need this centre for referees.
As things stand, Tunisia have made a difficult start to qualifying for the CAF Africa Cup of Nations 2012...
It’s true that we’ve started off fairly badly in the qualifiers, with a loss to Botswana and a draw with Malawi in particular. Next up for us are two away games – Togo in October and Botswana in November – and we absolutely have to take four points.
And yet Tunisia still boast plenty of talented players...
Yes, we have some very good players and youngsters coming through. Players like Fahid Ben Khalfallah and Issam Jomaa are key figures and on a different level to most in terms of technique. We need other players of the same calibre to progress. To do that, we need to work with a longer term perspective, thinking more about the future than right now.