Wadie Jary might accurately be described as a man in a hurry. Despite still being shy of his 40th birthday, the young administrator has been President of the Tunisian Football Federation (FTF) since 31 March this year, a natural step in his lightning ascension.
“I became President of CS Ben Guerdane, a club near to the Libyan border, at the age of 28,” he explained on his visit to the Home of FIFA on Friday. “The club was in the fifth division at the time and after that we gained promotion every season. I left the club in the second tier as a professional outfit. I’ve also been a member of the Federation since I was 33, sitting on various different committees such as the Youth Teams Committee, the National Team Committee etc.”
A former player with Ben Guerdane before becoming a football official, Jary was delighted to talk football with FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter during his trip to Zurich, but above all the two men focused on the FTF’s current projects. “We discussed our work programme for the 2012-16 cycle, particularly as it relates to our Technical Direction, and we also talked about the national team’s upcoming tests.”
Unsurprisingly, given Jary’s desire to bring about rapid and positive change, there were also plenty of other items on the agenda. “In terms of development, we have several projects,” he said. “Firstly, there’s the Technical Centre for Referees, a Goal project we hope to start on very soon and which could be ready in 18 months. We also want to renovate the buildings of the National Technical Centre, and in the longer term we’d like to construct lodgings with around 60 bedrooms for the national teams.”
Meanwhile, the 2011 Arab Spring, which spread outwards from Tunisia, has contributed significantly to framing the development debate – and Jary seems to have been given a boost by the winds of change. “We want to help amateur football more, our goal being to head towards total freedom of access in order to promote participation, especially regarding disciplines like Futsal and women’s football.
"We want to make life easier for the clubs," he continued. "In addition, we want to recruit qualified coaches for women’s football and Futsal, as well as physical and technical trainers for referees. And we want to lower the recruitment age for referees so that they can accumulate more experience and be ready for big tournaments like the Africa Cup of Nations and the FIFA World Cup.”
In short, Jary has an entire programme to introduce, with his intention being not only to boost grassroots football but also to restore pride to Tunisia’s national teams. Most notably, the country’s youth teams have struggled to make an impact in recent years. “Since 2007, when our U-17s got past the first round of the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Korea – a first for any of our national teams – it’s true that our youth sides have had more difficulty. But I’m hoping that our national training centre in Tunis will help us have quality youth teams very soon.”
As for the senior side, Jary is optimistic about the future, with Tunisia due to start their qualification bid for 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ at the end of June. He is not about to get carried away, though, even if the Carthage Eagles have been drawn in a group well within their reach alongside Cape Verde Islands, Equatorial Guinea and Sierra Leone.
“We have to prepare our national team well,” he explained. "No team can be considered easy because that’s the kind of thinking that’s given us bad surprises in the past. We’re going to do everything to qualify for 2014.”
On the negative side, league matches are currently being played behind closed doors for security reasons, which is hardly an ideal way to cultivate a popular passion for the game. “We’ve just sent the authorities a suggestion to let the public back in,” said Jary, keen to find a solution. “Above all, football is a spectacle that creates emotions, and it’s very sad in an empty stadium.” With that, he headed back off to work, eager not to waste a single minute.