A busy year ahead in 2011
© AFP

While the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ will be at the centre of FIFA’s attention in 2011, there are many other highlights to savour in the coming 12 months, including six FIFA tournaments, the 61st FIFA Congress and the Preliminary Draw, which will get the ball rolling for the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ in Brazil.

The year will be just ten days old when Zurich hosts the first major event on the FIFA calendar, the FIFA Ballon d’Or gala 2011. Formerly known as the FIFA World Player Gala, the event has been merged with the former Ballon d’Or awards presented by France Football magazine to create a combined ceremony in honour of the world’s best male and female players and coaches, as well as to pay tribute to some of the game’s unsung heroes off the pitch. In short, a perfect way to reflect on the footballing success stories of 2010 before the sport’s fans turn their focus fully onto 2011.

As the prizes are being handed out in Zurich, however, the first major international tournament of the year will already have got under way in Qatar, as the recently named 2022 FIFA World Cup™ hosts get in some early practice with their staging of the 15th edition of the AFC Asian Cup. In total, three of FIFA’s six continental confederations will be staging their most senior international men’s competition in 2011, with the 11th CONCACAF Gold Cup taking place in the USA in June and CONMEBOL organising the 43rd Copa América the following month in Argentina, whose national team will be chasing a record 15th title at the event.

When it comes to FIFA’s own competitions in 2011, June and July will be the months in which the year really kicks in. No fewer than four of the year’s six tournaments take place or begin in those months, with the annual Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup (1-2 June) being followed by the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Mexico (18 June – 10 July), which in turn overlaps with the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in Germany (26 June – 17 July). After just 11 “rest days”, the action then resumes in Colombia, where the FIFA U-20 World Cup kicks off on 29 July.

Back to the Azteca
Mexico and Colombia will both be first-time hosts of their respective youth competitions, although Mexico have staged four previous FIFA tournaments, including, of course, the 1970 and 1986 FIFA World Cups™. Indeed, the colossal Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, which staged the final matches in both those FIFA World Cups, will be used once again in
2011 for the U-17 final – a clear indication of the ambitious plans that are under way
in this football-crazed country.

Cheered on no doubt by their vociferous home supporters, the Mexican hosts will be chasing their second U-17 world title, following on from their triumph in Peru in 2005. So far, the home side are one of only five teams to have made sure of a place in the competition, along with Asian qualifiers Australia, Japan, Korea DPR and Uzbekistan. The next four will be revealed in mid-January, however, following the completion of the African
U-17 Championship in Rwanda.

“Many of today’s stars have made their international debut in this competition, and the next FIFA U-17 World Cup will again be an important platform for many budding talents,” FIFA Vice-President and chairman of the Organising Committee for the FIFA U-17 World Cup Jack Warner pointed out at the tournament’s official emblem launch in Mexico City last October. “We cannot wait to see what transpires on the field of play in 2011.”

Colombian pride
As hosts of the FIFA U-20 World Cup, Colombia will be staging the 18th edition of FIFA’s second-oldest competition (after the FIFA World Cup itself). This will be the third time that the event has been staged in South America – a continent which has supplied the winning team in no fewer than ten of the previous 17 editions, with Argentina being crowned champions a record six times in addition to four victories for their arch-rivals from Brazil.

Colombia’s best showing to date was a bronze-medal finish in 2003, and this tournament has not exactly favoured home teams in the past with only two hosts so far managing to go all the way. The Colombian fans may, however, see a good omen in the fact that Portugal did so in 1991, before Argentina matched them ten years later in 2001. Another decade later, could home advantage perhaps prove effective once more?

Just as with the U-17 version, the FIFA U-20 World Cup has long been a platform for many of the future stars of world football to get their first taste of top-level international competition, and supporters will naturally be eager to see who might follow on from the likes of Diego Maradona, Kaká, Luís Figo, Lionel Messi and Ronaldinho in the 2011 edition. The line-up for the U-20 tournament is a little clearer than for the U-17s, with six European sides (Austria, Croatia, England, France, Portugal and Spain) and four Asian teams (Australia, Korea DPR, Korea Republic and Saudi Arabia) having already booked their places alongside the hosts. Five more teams will be confirmed in January and February when Oceania’s single representative and the four South American qualifiers are revealed.

For both Mexico and Colombia, the events will also provide an opportunity to show off the rich diversity of their countries and the sporting passion of their peoples. Colombia’s newly inaugurated President, Juan Manuel Santos, even went as far as to say that this year’s
tournament would the most significant sporting event ever held in his country, promising attendees at last September’s official emblem launch that “from 29 July to 20 August 2011, we’re going to live and breathe football”.

Off the pitch
While competitions will of course be the most visible aspect of FIFA’s activities in 2011, world football’s governing body will also be living and breathing football in its work away from the big stadiums, and in areas as diverse as football development, corporate social
responsibility (CSR) programmes and the ongoing administration of the game.

When it comes to CSR, 2011’s highlights will continue to revolve around “20 Centres for 2010”, the official campaign of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. While the tournament itself is now part of sporting history, the health and education centres are still being built as part of the legacy that FIFA plans to leave across Africa. Following the opening of the first four centres in 2009 and 2010, the coming months will see further facilities open in Lesotho, Ghana and Rwanda.

In addition, two programmes will be launched for disadvantaged communities in the Colombian cities of Bogotá and Cali as part of the social activities relating to the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Work will also continue with the Local Organising Committee for the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ to ensure that social development and environmental protection are integrated into Brazil’s event preparations. Environmental concerns will also receive
further attention in 2011, with the Green Goal 2011 project in Germany among the
environmental activities being supported by FIFA.

As for developing the game, FIFA’s Member Associations and Development Division is looking forward to another busy 12 months – with more than 400 events planned, including courses, consultancy missions and seminars. In addition to the traditional coaching courses which have formed the backbone of FIFA’s development since 1976, additional on-pitch activities now cover refereeing, beach soccer, futsal and grassroots football development, while off the pitch, FIFA continues to work hand-in-hand with its member associations in the areas of football management, revenue generation, event management and IT or financial management.

Women’s football will, of course, be a priority in this FIFA Women’s World Cup year. As well as the already established programmes dealing specifically with women’s football development, FIFA will be hosting a three-day symposium in the final days of the tournament in Germany, giving experts from all 208 FIFA member associations the chance to exchange experiences and set new targets to further advance the female game.

On the organisational side, the elective Congress in Zurich from 31 May to 1 June will of course also be an important moment for the member associations to take stock and develop future goals.

Just two months after the Congress, and merely a day after the start of the FIFA U-20 World Cup, the same members of the football family will be gathering in Rio de Janeiro for what will be seen by many as the real kick-off to the 2014 FIFA World Cup. In a live broadcast from the stunning setting of the Marina da Glória, the watching world will discover the arduous routes that their favourite teams will have to travel if they are to make it all the way back to Brazil in time for football’s biggest party.

Beach party
With Brazil 2014 still some way off, however, even after that Preliminary Draw, fans of the
game in all its forms will be able to turn their attention in September to a code that was
born on the sands of Brazil: beach soccer. Now enjoying popularity around the world, and not only in coastal nations, the game will in 2011 see the sixth edition of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. Following the staging of the first three competitions in Rio, the tournament has since spread its wings to take in first Marseilles in 2008 and Dubai in 2009, and will return to Europe in 2011 for 11 days of thrilling action on the beach front near the ancient and beautiful Italian city of Ravenna.

As has now become the tradition, the last FIFA competition of the year will be the FIFA Club World Cup, which in 2011 returns to Japan (hosts of the 2005, 2006 and 2007 editions) after two years in the United Arab Emirates. With the 2010 version only just completed and almost a whole year to go until the 2011 edition, the line-up of participating teams will not even start to take shape until April of this year when the club champions of Oceania and the CONCACAF region are revealed. As usual, the remaining continental champions will become known in the months that follow, further adding to the exciting list of top-level football fixtures taking place around the world in this busy year.

FIFA CALENDAR 2011
6 January: AFC Congress, Doha
7-29 January: AFC Asian Cup, Qatar
10 January: FIFA Ballon d’Or gala, Zurich
15 January: OFC Congress, Pago Pago
31 January – 4 February: FIFA committee week, Zurich
9 February: Fixed date for international friendly matches
23 February: CAF Congress, Sudan
25-29 February: Fixed dates for international competition matches
28 February – 3 March: FIFA committee week, Zurich
2-3 March: FIFA Executive Committee, Zurich
4-6 March: IFAB Annual General Meeting, Newport
22 March: UEFA Congress, Paris
25-29 March: Fixed dates for international competition matches
1 May: CONMEBOL Congress, Asunción
3 May: CONCACAF Congress, Miami
5-25 June: CONCACAF Gold Cup, USA
30 May: FIFA Executive Committee, Zurich
31 May – 1 June: 61st FIFA Congress, Zurich
1 June: Fixed date for international friendly matches
1-2 June: Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup, Zurich
3-7 June: Fixed dates for international competition matches
18 June – 10 July: FIFA U-17 World Cup, Mexico
26 June – 17 July: FIFA Women’s World Cup™, Germany
29 July – 20 August: FIFA U-20 World Cup, Colombia
1-24 July: Copa América, Argentina
30 July: Preliminary Draw for the 2014 FIFA World Cup™, Rio de Janeiro
10 August: Fixed date for international friendly matches
1-11 September: FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, Ravenna
2-6 September: Fixed dates for international competition matches
7-11 October: Fixed dates for international competition matches
17-21 October: FIFA committee week, Zurich
20-21 October: FIFA Executive Committee, Zurich
11-15 November: Fixed dates for international competition matches
8-18 December: FIFA Club World Cup, Japan
15-16 December: FIFA Executive Committee, Japan