As part of the Goal programme, the city of Beirut last week hosted a seminar organised by FIFA for the general secretaries of member associations from west Asia.
Meeting between 12 and 14 October, the officials were able to discuss a number of subjects linked to the issue of professionalisation. Representatives from South Africa and Switzerland were on hand to relate the lessons learned by their respective championships, while Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates also made presentations to communicate their own experiences.
FIFA holds this seminar every year to keep the general secretaries informed of the latest developments in the Laws of the Game and to help evaluate how FIFA can offer support. The meetings also encourage cooperation between the general secretaries of the various associations, a point underlined by Urs Zanitti of FIFA’s MA & Development Division.
“FIFA organises this seminar every year,” he told FIFA.com. “Last year, it was held in Qatar. This year, we’re in Lebanon. The main objective is to give the general secretaries the chance to discuss the latest changes in the game, its rules, and how to develop it.
“This type of seminar is also designed to help us learn the problems faced by the associations affiliated to FIFA. In addition, it’s an opportunity to lay down programmes which are ideally suited to developing the game, particularly as the administrations and organisations are right now experiencing huge growth.”
An instructive experience
Oman Football Association General Secretary Saleh Al Farsi found the FIFA-organised seminar to be interesting on every level, paying particular attention to the presentation made by South African Premier Soccer League CEO Kjetil Siem. “We were very impressed by the talk given by the South African association representative, especially the part about regulations and, in particular, computerised regulations.
"That makes it possible to reduce paper usage, better manage the regulations relating to different competitions and treat issues concerning players in a more efficient way. That was a unique experience for us and we’ll be using this expertise in our country.”
In a similar vein, Iraq Football Association General Secretary Tariq Ahmed explained that the issues on the table proved very useful, above all when it came to doping and professionalisation. “The standard of the speakers was high,” he said. “They have huge experience and we learnt a lot during the discussion about doping and how to fight this problem.
"As for professional leagues, we were interested in the contributions made by the associations from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE and South Africa. We hope to participate in more seminars organised by FIFA as that will help us advance down the right path – the one that leads to the development of football in the region.”
Regulations and competitions
Iran Football Association General Secretary Mehdi Mohammad Nabi expressed the point that this type of event gives an insight into the regulations adopted internally by different associations and how they tally with FIFA’s own regulations. “This seminar was very instructive, especially regarding the development of professional championships,” he said. “We were also able to learn how to apply a rule internally so that it is in accord with FIFA regulations.”
For Palestine Football Association General Secretary Abed Al Majeed Hijjeh, these meetings are of great benefit, especially for associations with less experience and on the lookout for new ways to develop the game. “This seminar was very important for us because we were able to share our experiences with other general secretaries and technical directors from west Asia,” he said.
"Of course, the Palestinian FA is still young and we’re putting in a lot of effort to launch football despite the obstacles we face. The Palestinian championship is only just starting out, but we’ve been able to make great strides in the last two years. It’s important to acquire certain skills if we want to ensure our championship enjoys a good start.”
According to FIFA’s Development Programmes Asia Senior Manager, David Borja, the development office in west Asia office has been working hard to collaborate with FIFA in helping the member associations grow. “The office in Amman (Jordan), run by Nidal Al-Hadid and Majed Al-Abweh, does a tremendous job promoting programmes and helping associations develop football in the region,” he said. “Their contribution has been decisive.
“The associations in the Gulf have been able to grow rapidly thanks to strong material support,” he added. “That’s not been the case with the other associations. FIFA has been able to provide lots of services to those other associations and develop plenty of projects, particularly in Palestine and Yemen, but there are still lots of aspects FIFA can work on there.
“FIFA’s most important contribution during the seminar in Beirut was to give the associations the chance to interact and find answers to their questions that will make it possible to promote the game in their region.”