At the behest of the UCPF (Union of Professional Football Clubs), the Secretary General of FIFA Jerome Valcke made an official visit to the French capital on Monday 11 October 2010. The day included a discussion on how to promote the work which FIFA carries out for Africa as well as a meeting of the presidents of France's professional clubs.
The morning saw Valcke began by visiting an exhibition entitled "Here come the African footballers!", currently on display at the French National Sports Museum and which pays a moving tribute to the influence African players have had on French football since the 1930s.
The museum also played host to a prize-giving ceremony for the Grand Prix UCPF, which was awarded in the "Wider audience" category to a work entitled "Africa and planet football" by Paul Dietschy and David-Claude Kemo-Keimbou, which was given support throughout by FIFA via its "Win in Africa with Africa" project and which also published the book. In the "Research" category, the award went to a thesis written by Nicolas Scelles entitled "L’incertitude du résultat, facteur clé de succès du spectacle sportif professionnel" (The uncertainty of the result – a key factor in the success of professional sport as entertainment).
'6+5', protecting minors and the TMS
"It is very satisfying to see a book about Africa receive an award from such an illustrious jury," said the FIFA Secretary General. "Demonstrating our commitment to the authors of this work was an opportunity for FIFA to underline its interest in the African continent – an interest which goes beyond merely holding the World Cup in South Africa. Our commitment was designed to develop the fields of both culture and education in that particular continent."
Valcke, along with Marco Villiger, FIFA's Director of Legal Affairs, and Jean-Michel Benezet, FIFA's Technical Director, then headed a round-table discussion in a prestigious hotel on the Champs-Elysees, attended by the presidents of the French Ligue 1, Ligue 2 and National (third division) clubs.
The round table was an opportunity for those involved in the sport to discuss such subjects as the "6+5" rule, regulations governing the actions of player agents, the protection of minors and also the TMS, the brand new Transfer Matching System.
"This visit from Jerome Valcke and his team is a great honour for us," said Jean-Pierre Louvel, UCPF president. "It is an opportunity for our clubs to expand their horizons by integrating an international dimension into their strategies and to obtain detailed information on some of the main issues in football today."
To round off this unique day, Benezet gave a presentation on the subject of "FIFA and Africa".
Artificial turf boost for Cape Verde Islands
The fully committed club presidents were delighted to hear from Benezet about the efforts which FIFA has made via the Financial Assistance Programme (FAP), Goal projects and "Win in Africa with Africa", the latter designed to help FIFA fulfil its three main missions: developing the game, reaching out to the world and building a better future.
The programme has an overall budget of 70 million dollars and has enabled eight initiatives to be implemented, including the installation of artificial pitches, promoting sports medicine, producing the "50 years of African football" DVD box set and organising a charity match in honour of Nelson Mandela.
"In Cape Verde, a country which has some incredibly gifted footballers, simply replacing the pitch in the national stadium with artificial turf has enabled the team to really improve its results," Benezet explained. Indeed, Cape Verde Islands are currently ahead of Mali, Zimbabwe and Liberia in their qualifying group for the 2012 CAF Africa Cup of Nations.
The day was an interesting and informative one for all parties involved, with everyone agreeing to meet again very soon to go into more detail on the subjects discussed today.