Diallo: Football can help heal the country
© Foto-net

Elected president of the Ivorian Football Association (FIF) back in September, Augustin Diallo made a visit on Friday to the Home of FIFA, where he met with FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter. The unassuming Diallo also sat down for an interview with FIFA.com, giving his views on the Côte d’Ivoire national team and the role football can play in healing the wounds caused by the country’s internal conflicts.  

FIFA.com: Can you tell us the reason for your visit to FIFA?
Augustin Diallo: We were elected on 10 September, and having paid a visit to the Confederation of African Football we’ve now made the trip to world football’s governing body. We’re also here to meet the FIFA President and the heads of this venerable institution.

What topics did you discuss with Blatter?
We basically spoke about the development of football in Côte d’Ivoire and the things we can do to improve the league, grassroots football, women’s football, and training for referees, coaches and administrators etc. As you know, Côte d’Ivoire has just been through a bloody civil war, which caused everything to grind to a halt. What we now have to do is get all the training programmes up and running again so that football can take its place in society once more.

What do you hope to achieve?
Our objective and the focal point of our visit here is to ask FIFA to help us get football back on its feet. We want to be a driving force in the process of reconciliation that’s currently taking place in Côte d’Ivoire. President Blatter showed great interest in the social role that football can play in that, and we believe that we can use the game to help the people of Côte d’Ivoire rebuild the links that bind them together. Our aim is to bring society together again across the country.

Can you tell us which aspects you will be focusing on?
When you talk about football you invariably talk about what’s happening on the pitch. Obviously that’s very important, but I also feel that the administration of the game is just as crucial. In my view, the FA and the clubs both need to be run like modern companies, and having an efficient management system in place can only be of benefit to Ivorian football.
 
Turning to the national team, Côte d’Ivoire are now regarded as one of the best teams in Africa and are among the favourites for the 2012 CAF African Cup of Nations. Is that a good thing?
I don’t think it matters if you’re the favourites or not. We’ve got a lot of great players in Côte d’Ivoire, but we need to build a genuine team that knows how to win, which is an entirely different thing. This team hasn’t won anything yet. Some people will look at the draw for the African Cup of Nations and think we’ve got any easy group with Sudan, Burkina Faso and Angola. But then why do you think teams like Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa didn’t make the finals? Because they were beaten by these so-called little teams. We have to keep our feet on the ground and respect the opposition. As the Bible says: “Humility comes before honour”.

The U-17 team impressed at the FIFA U-17 World Cup last June and the U-23s are still in contention for a place at London 2012. What is the secret to the success of the country’s youth teams?
Football is ubiquitous in Ivorian society. It’s part of our everyday life, and children play the game everywhere non-stop. As long as you create the right environment, then children can express themselves and the results will come. The FIF and my predecessor Jacques Anouma created the right conditions, and we’re going to carry on with their work by making our own little contribution. The technical support FIFA offers through its training programmes is a big factor in helping us do that.