• Fifth FIFA Executive Football Summit in 2017/2018 series being held in Amsterdam
  • FIFA meeting with 21 associations from three confederations to discuss future of the game
  • Van Basten: "It’s important to interact with each other"

The rain pours down on a cold and windy January day in Amsterdam. Despite the weather, the taxi driver continues to weave his way through the Dutch capital with a smile on his face, knowing that poor weather conditions mean even more customers flagging him down. The fact that fewer cyclists are braving the rain-sodden streets makes it even easier for him to negotiate the heavy traffic.

Former Dutch international and current FIFA Chief Officer for Technical Development Marco van Basten does not need a taxi to get him to the Rijksmuseum, instead arriving in his own car. After all, Amsterdam is his hometown, the place he returns to every weekend and where his family still live. When asked about the weather, he explains that "the rain and the wind are simply part of life here".

Van Basten knows and appreciates the people here in Amsterdam, and they know and adore him in return – hardly a surprise when you consider that the striker gave the city some of its greatest footballing moments. In 1982, the then 18-year-old moved from Utrecht to Ajax, where players such as Johan Cruyff, Johan Neeskens and Arie Haan pioneered a brand of attacking football during the 1970s that ultimately gained international admiration as the Dutch national team’s Total Football philosophy.

The venerable club lost ground in international competition in the years that followed, before returning to the summit of European football by winning the 1987 European Cup Winners’ Cup with Van Basten’s help. "Ajax is the most famous club in the Netherlands with plenty of history, so that triumph was something very special," says the former striker, who scored the final’s only goal.

Amsterdam is a city with an impressive footballing pedigree, making it the perfect location for the fifth FIFA Executive Football Summit in 2017/2018. The world football governing body is meeting with 21 member associations to discuss the future of the beautiful game. "It’s important to interact with each other, as this gives us the opportunity to discuss problems and search for solutions together," says Van Basten.

*Working together *The 53-year-old is aware that this is not always easy. "FIFA has 211 member associations with vastly different needs," he says, before emphasising, "Only by working together and keeping our eyes fixed on the bigger picture can we achieve the best for football." It is for exactly this reason that FIFA President Gianni Infantino launched the FIFA Executive Football Summit in 2016. It offers a platform for addressing countries’ interests and aligning their needs as, despite their differences, all member associations have one thing in common: their love of the beautiful game.

Marco van Basten is looking forward to this gathering in his home city, which will focus on topics such as the FIFA Forward programme and the future of youth and women’s competitions. He has first-hand experience of the unifying power of football and the emotions it can provoke.

In the UEFA EURO 1988 final, the striker fired the ball into the far corner from a seemingly impossible angle. The Dutch won the title and Van Basten ended the tournament as top scorer. The team returned home to a heroes’ welcome with thousands of fans lining the streets to cheer their victory – in Amsterdam, of course.

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