FIFA President lauds foundations for football growth in South-East Asia

  • Gianni Infantino the first FIFA President to attend AFF Suzuki Cup

  • Importance of region with a population of 650 million highlighted

  • Member associations thanked Mr Infantino for FIFA FORWARD and COVID-19 Relief Fund support

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has outlined football’s role in recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on a visit to Singapore, also praising steps taken for the development of football’s foundations in the region and pledging commitment to sustainable growth of the game in South-East Asia.

Mr Infantino reinforced the messages of the Asean Football Federation (AFF) ahead of the opening ceremony of the AFF Suzuki Cup, thanking key workers for their societal roles in response to COVID-19 and calling for continued collaboration to make a stronger future for football by backing the AFF’s “Emerging Stronger Together” campaign.

“We have realised in these years that there is something that is more important than football, and that is health,” said Mr Infantino. “We have also realised that in order to get through it [this period], that we need to be together. We recognise the work that has been done [by key workers], we thank them and we also need to work for them. Because our responsibility – and that of federations in the Asean region covering a population of 650 million people – is to bring back hope, optimism and joy through football. And this AFF Suzuki Cup is a competition which unites a whole region.

“We’ve heard the figures of the AFF President that there were over 200 million viewers in the last edition of the AFF Suzuki Cup”, the President continued. “The Asean region is the fifth-biggest world economy and we need to work together to make this competition and Asean football grow, to make it become the top of the world.”

The AFF Suzuki Cup has a significant footprint with an aggregate attendance in excess of 750,000 for the last tournament, which also amassed 567 million impressions on social media. President Infantino attended Singapore’s 3-0 win over Myanmar on the opening day of the latest edition, after witnessing a 2-0 success for Thailand over Timor-Leste.

President at the AFF Suzuki Cup

Whilst there, he reiterated FIFA’s commitment to strengthening the international match calendar for the benefit of member associations in the region and was also thanked for FIFA’s commitment both to development and protecting football from the worst impact of the pandemic.

“I would like to convey our deepest appreciation to you for the immense work that was undertaken by FIFA to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, which has seized and humbled us in ways we have never experienced”, said AFF President Major General Khiev Sameth. “During difficult times such as this pandemic, people turn to their leaders for guidance and the leadership provided by you during this challenging period has, among other things, paved the way for the resumption of football competitions in our region, including the AFF Suzuki Cup today.”