The 12 million people living in Chad have one thing in common: they all dream of one day seeing their national football team compete at the final stages of a major tournament.
And while following their heroes at the FIFA World Cup™ would be the fans’ ultimate aspiration, many would be happy with a maiden qualification for the CAF Africa Cup of Nations. Be it for sporting or administrative reasons, Les Sao have thus far experienced nothing but failure on both those fronts.
But ‘failure’ is a word that Chad’s sporting authorities have now decided to remove from their vocabulary, at least as far as football is concerned. It was with this newly ambitious mindset that the President of the Chadian Football Association, Mahamoud Moctar, and the Chadian Minister for Youth and Sport, Mahamat Adoum, paid a visit to the Home of FIFA on 29 April.
“We’re here with plenty of ideas,” Moctar told FIFA.com after meeting FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter. “We’d like to make a commitment to development in our country, based on advice and guidance from FIFA.”
The guidance in question takes the form of various programmes and financing packages that football’s governing body makes available to its Member Associations to help them implement their development plans.
Chad has already benefitted from three Goal projects, approved in 2002, 2006 and 2010 respectively, which enabled the construction of the Farcha technical centre in N'Djamena, the country’s first football academy, and the addition of accommodation facilities and a football pitch.
A new N’Doram?
Boosted by the success of the technical centre, Chadian football is now ready to meet its greatest challenge, laying the foundations for the future while turning the page on the disappointments of the past. “Today we can’t really talk about development until we put in place a fundamental youth coaching strategy,” said Adoum.
“In order to make real progress, we wanted to work hand-in-hand with the FA by implementing a development programme that consisted of simple talent spotting that was worthy of the name.”
In a country where football rules supreme, simply making up the numbers at continental level has proved a difficult pill to swallow. To remedy this situation, the Chadian FA harbours dreams of discovering a new Japhet N’Doram, who became a national idol following a brilliant career in France with Nantes and Monaco in the 1990s.
“No-one has truly come to the fore yet,” said Moctar. “But we firmly believe that there are young people out there who could feasibly be the new Japhet and become professional players. They’ll reveal themselves when the time comes.”
Saos supporters do have grounds for optimism nonetheless, however, as a handful of national team regulars are presently gaining valuable experience in Europe, like Azrack Mahamat, now in Bulgaria after playing at Espanyol, Ezechiel Ndouassel at Terek Grozny, or team captain Marius Mbaiam at Grenoble.
Meanwhile, in North Africa’s highly competitive leagues, Karl Marx Barthelemy plays for DH El Jadida in Morocco, and attacking midfileder Yaya Kerim plays for USM El Harrach in Algeria.
Although this current generation were not able to reach the second round of African qualifying matches for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, they were unfortunate to suffer an aggregate defeat to Tanzania in the first round, having won the home leg 1-0.
Chad then followed up that result a few months later with a 3-2 defeat of Malawi in the first leg of their 2013 CAF Africa Cup of Nations first round qualifying tie.
“We’re very satisfied with and proud of our team, but we’re also aware that there is a lot of room for improvement,” pointed out Moctar, adding optimistically, “We’ve identified what we’re lacking. We need to draw lessons from past failings before we chart a new course.”
Precisely where will that course lead for Chadian football? “Our ambition is to have our national teams enter into as many competitions as possible," replied the FA President.
Youth competitions such as the FIFA U-17 and U-20 World Cups are regarded as the ideal springboards for the careers of future first-choice senior players, hence the necessity to implement an effective development policy for young Chadian footballers.
“Aside from talent detection, we’ve got an entire programme to put into action,” said Adoum. “It’s up to us to get a youth league system up-and-running. Without that, there’ll be no chance of our national football set-up developing harmoniously,” added the Minister.
That is where FIFA, who can play a crucial role, come in, courtesy of their PERFORMANCE programme, an indispensable tool for structuring national football. “The technical centre was financed by FIFA, and now it’s a real football hub with all its great facilities, but that’s only the beginning,” stated President Moctar.
“Using the Goal 4 programme, that will be voted by the FIFA Development Comity in October, we’d like to build a new headquarters for our FA. And using the PERFORMANCE programme, we'll build a radio studio, that will be included in the context of global strengthening of the competences of the Federation. It would broadcast sport, but particularly football.”
In addition to gaining backing from FIFA, acquiring support from the Chadian state is necessary in order that the FA’s projects see the light of day. “The state wants to develop sport in general, and specifically football, which today represents the hopes and dreams of an entire nation,” said the Chadian politician
“There are more than 12 million Chadians who are desperate to see their national side compete at regional and international level. Taking that as a starting point, the Ministry for Youth and Sport has set some very ambitious objectives that should help the young Chadian FA realise its dreams.”
"Chad is overflowing with young talents begging for development,” concluded the Minister, “I would very much like for the Chadian FA to be given special attention in terms of finances and technical or material assistance.” By stopping off in Zurich to speak to FIFA, Chad’s football authorities have clearly knocked on the right door.