The prime objective of the Goal Programme, launched in 1999 by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, was to provide FIFA's member associations with the infrastructure that would enable them to develop independently. Ten years and close to 400 projects later, that daunting ambition has been realised.
Ten years ago, on 1 October 1999, 11 pilot projects were given the green light as part of a new development programme underpinned by a clear aim: to help and support FIFA's member associations, without doing everything for them. This unique programme, called Goal, had one overriding objective - to give FIFA's member associations the infrastructure they needed for long-term development. At that time, associations in many developing countries faced seemingly insurmountable problems. Their attempts to improve their organisation, professionalism and football development were thwarted by a lack of offices, decent pitches or dressing rooms. They were being held back by their lack of infrastructure and, of course, financial constraints.
FIFA, ever-conscious of its duty to support its members, needed to consider the concept of development. Since the launch of the World Development Programme in 1975, world football's governing body had been helping associations all over the world by organising courses in administration, coaching and refereeing that would pass on the knowledge that is so vital to development and growth. However, initiatives of this kind were often doomed because of the chronic lack of resources and infrastructure in many countries. FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter's vision was therefore to give each member association a "House of Football", a complex with an administrative headquarters and a technical centre that would function as the nerve centre for football development. This became one of the foundations of the Goal Programme.
In 1999, Blatter launched the Goal Programme with the support of the FIFA Technical Committee. The initial budget for the programme was CHF 100 million, to be distributed among 100 associations over the course of the following three years.
While it is not possible to tell the story of FIFA's flagship development programme over the past ten years in figures alone, the numbers are still impressive. So far, the programme has given rise to a total of 386 projects and resulted in some USD 127,638,596 of investment - a figure that does not even take into account the support provided by the associations themselves, the FIFA Financial Assistance Programme and other bodies such as national governments. A total of 76 artificial (or "football turf") pitches have been installed, 97 headquarters built and a further 176 technical centres are up and running. The most active associations are now even benefiting from the third or fourth phase of the Goal Programme.
The objective that was set in 1999 has not only been reached but surpassed, thanks in no small part to the enthusiasm shown by the member associations. Today, all but 19 of FIFA's 208 member associations have been awarded a Goal project. In other words, a staggering 189 associations have already benefited from the programme.
We are now able to launch and consolidate development programmes, strengthen the autonomy of our associations and unearth and train talented young players.
Take the example of Georgia, where cooperation between FIFA, UEFA and the local government has brought about major advances in development. Back in 2001, the Goal Bureau approved the first Georgian project - the construction of a national technical centre in Tbilisi which consisted of accommodation, several pitches, dressing rooms and offices, all of which were inaugurated in 2003. Two years later, a second Goal project saw the installation of the country's very first football turf pitch, turning the technical centre into a facility that is now used extensively all year round. Meanwhile, Georgia's third project, which is now under way, is focusing on a development programme for the country's most talented youngsters. Consequently, the facilities are now in place for the association to welcome all of its players - from its women's and youth teams to its senior men's national team.
The basic model of the Goal Programme is the same all around the world - from Jordan (technical centre and football turf pitch) to Bangladesh, from the Cape Verde Islands (combined headquarters and technical centre, football turf pitch) to Nicaragua (technical centre and natural grass pitch).
Some associations have used the funding provided by the Goal Programme as a means of developing futsal and beach soccer facilities at their technical centres. The Argentinian Football Association, for example, improved its futsal and beach soccer infrastructure with the installation of a futsal hall, administrative offices, a medical centre, and floodlights for the beach soccer pitch.
The much-needed boost to football development that Goal has provided around the world was barely imaginable not so long ago. For example, few would have believed that in 2009, a FIFA instructor would travel to Ramallah in Palestine to hold a ten-day training course for Palestinian instructors - and on a pristine football turf pitch. Yet such stories are now increasingly common thanks to the hundreds of projects conceived by the Goal Programme.
Reynald Temarii, OFC President and a member of the Goal Bureau, told FIFA World about the impact that Goal has had on his confederation: "Launched in 1999 by President Blatter with the support of Michel Platini, by 2009, the Goal Programme has given all 11 OFC associations their own technical centre and administrative headquarters, which is a quite unique situation in Oceanian sport. Thanks to these facilities, we are now able to launch and consolidate development programmes, strengthen the autonomy of our associations and unearth and train talented young players throughout the entire Pacific region.
"This infrastructure has also helped two teams from the Pacific Islands, namely the Solomon Islands and Tahiti, to improve their preparations for tournaments, which has seen the Solomon Islands qualify for the FIFA Futsal World Cup in 2008 and the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in 2009, and Tahiti for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2009. Over the next ten years, the Goal Programme will work with public authorities and the private sector to bring even more life into football centres and our clubs by developing local staff's management and leadership skills and training technical staff."
Every single area of football development has benefited from Goal. Administrative structures are more professional, managerial staff and referees receive better instruction, national teams train in improved conditions, and more and more talented young footballers are spotted at an early age. What is more, the medical aspects of the game have also improved beyond recognition. With the first phase of the programme now complete, it is up to clubs and young players to pick up the baton at grassroots level and benefit from the advances that have been made.
The huge success of the Goal venture highlights the willingness of FIFA and its member associations to work together to create new football development projects all over the world. All of those who have been involved in the Goal Programme, from President Blatter and the Goal Bureau - which is responsible for selecting and approving projects - to the FIFA administration and the participating associations, have succeeded in turning what was a hugely ambitious project into a glorious reality.
Goal has completely changed FIFA's vision of football development and that of the entire football family, setting new standards along the way. In football, however, and for FIFA and its member associations, there is never time to stand still. The aim now is to scale new development heights while maintaining and improving the infrastructure and facilities already in place.
This article is from the October issue of FIFA World, the new FIFA magazine. You can read every issue of FIFA World online by clicking the link on the right.