Conakry extends warm welcome to Blatter

FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter made the next stop on his six-day tour of Africa on Thursday, arriving in the Guinean capital of Conakry direct from Nouakchott. And just as he had done in Mauritania the day before, Blatter took the opportunity to check how the country’s various development programmes are progressing, including the construction of the new headquarters of the Guinean Football Association (FEGUIFOOT).

After being welcomed by Prime Minister Mohamed Said Fofana, the FIFA delegation made straight for Kaloum, one of the five municipalities that make up the Guinean capital and the location for FEGUIFOOT’s new offices, which are being built with the support of the Goal Project. Conducted in a warm, friendly atmosphere, the visit continued with a trip to FEGUIFOOT’s temporary HQ at Conakry’s People’s Palace.

Goal Project scores another success
Also on the agenda on the FIFA delegation’s two-day stay was the opening of the Nongo Football Academy. Attending the ceremony were the Prime Minister, FEGUIFOOT President Salifou Camara, and the Minister for Sport Sanoussy Bantama Sow. Popularly known as “Kempes”, Sow was appointed to the post at the end of last year, taking over from former Guinea striker Titi Camara, who was capped 56 times by his country.

Situated on the outskirts of Conakry, the academy is the centrepiece of the country’s Goal Project and has latterly been refurbished and fitted out thanks to support from the PERFORMANCE programme. An artificial pitch will also be installed at the complex as part of an aid project supporting associations with the least resources, while FIFA has also given its approval to a $550,000 investment in the academy.

“Development is a question of give and take, no matter whether it takes place in sport or the social sector,” said Blatter. “It can’t just be a one-way process, and together we are putting infrastructures and programmes in place. FIFA is supporting and overseeing this process, and once it has been built it is important to bring an academy like this to life.”

Looking to the long term
The objective is not just to train the players of tomorrow but to give them the incentives to stay in Guinean football. The scale of that task is revealed by the fact that only one member of the Syli National’s 23-man squad at the 2012 CAF Africa Cup of Nations played for a Guinean club: substitute goalkeeper Abdoul Aziz Keita of Atletico Club de Coleah. The days when Hafia FC, who won the CAF Champions League three times in the 1970s, and 12-time Guinean champions As Kaloum Star provided the national side with the majority of its players have long since gone.

“One of FIFA’s goals is to strengthen national championships, especially in Africa, so that players can make a living in their own countries without having to try their luck in Europe,” said Blatter, who will travel to Botswana tomorrow on the next leg of his African tour. “A lot of them are lured by Europe’s sirens but few of them make a go of it there.”