The U-20 Youth Championship of the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA), which kicked off on 3 December in Lesotho, provided the backdrop for an inspirational speech by FIFA Ambassador for Fair Play, Simone Farina.
“Integrity and honour is what people admire. Future generations need strong role models who are willing to stand up and say no to match-fixing in sport,” Farina told an audience made up of players and officials from the representative teams of Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“I know how much hard work you have put into becoming the footballer you are today. Don’t put all the efforts at risk to lose your dignity and career. Be strong and say no to match-fixing. The game gives us all a lot of joy, hope and opportunities for personal development. Let’s give something back to the game of football and protect it by saying no.
“Our focus though cannot be limited to professional leagues and superstars. Prevention starts with tomorrow’s athletes – players like you. During my childhood, I was taught that sport was not just about a ball and a goal – but about building us into men and women of honour and integrity.”
During the tournament, which is set to finish on 14 December, a variety of other keynote speakers are set to make presentations and create awareness about critical matters such as HIV and financial education. A FIFA administration and management course, a COSAFA referees workshop and a youth coaching clinic for 100 children from the community of Mafeteng are also integral parts of the COSAFA U-20 Youth Championship programme.
Farina hit the headlines for his key role in helping to stop a match-fixing attempt in Italy in November 2011. The former Roma defender was approached and offered €200,000 to help influence a Coppa Italia match between Cesena and his club, Gubbio.
Farina, of course, refused, and reported the incident to Italian police. Later, his evidence helped led to the arrest of 17 people, and to Joseph S. Blatter naming 30-year-old Farina as a FIFA Ambassador for Fair Play. INTERPOL, who investigated the match-manipulation scandal in Italy, also awarded Farina a commemorative medal for his contribution to crime prevention and law enforcement.
In May 2011, the ‘FIFA-INTERPOL Initiative’ was established. The initiative recognises the complexity of match-fixing on a global scale, and the importance of prevention. One of the goals of the FIFA-INTERPOL programme is to educate and train key participants in the game such as players and referees. The life-skill event in Lesotho and Farina’s involvement support FIFA in its mission to reach out to young people and to prepare them for the challenges that exist in the world of football.