Paralympic football development a priority, FIFA President tells Italian conference on Disability
FIFA President said football can be a positive tool for social inclusion for disabled boys and girls
Recognises that much work still needs to be done around the world
Praises Italian Paralympic Committee as “an inspiration for everyone”
FIFA President Gianni Infantino has recognised the power of football as a tool for social inclusion for disabled boys and girls, while recognising that much work still needs to be done around the world to give them enhanced equal opportunities to be involved in all aspects of the beautiful game.
In a video address to Italy's sixth National Conference on Disability, the FIFA President also stressed that the development of Paralympic football was a key part of his programme to grow football globally.
"I can say that FIFA is constantly working to ensure that all disabled people can play football, which as you know we consider to be the most beautiful game in the world," he said.
He said that many of FIFA's 211 MAs had already established para-football programmes with the creation of competitions for disabled people, as for example happens in Italy thanks to the work of the FIGC. But he added: "If we look at the wider international context, there is still a lot to be done."
He explained: "FIFA's role, as I stressed in my programme for the harmonious development of football in the world, is also to be a vehicle for social and economic development in every geographical area of our planet. This also includes the development of all disciplines of para-football. In many parts of the world, there is still a lack of opportunity for disabled people to play and enjoy football."
The President said that, in response, FIFA has recently set up a working group consisting of Paralympic football experts - including legends of the discipline - and representatives of national associations that already have programmes for disabled people. It met for the first time on December 3, World Disability Day.
The working group will work to develop concrete proposals for MAs towards the development and implementation of multiple para-football disciplines.
"FIFA will also make its voice heard - and it is a voice spread across 211 countries and regions - to raise society's awareness of disabilities, convinced that football can be a positive tool for social inclusion for disabled boys and girls around the world," he added.
"I have had experiences with young disabled people who have a passion for football and this has enriched me greatly, helping me to understand the importance of our gestures, of our actions to include every human being, preserving their dignity."
He also detailed the importance FIFA attached in making its own tournaments accessible to everyone.
"This means not only providing access, pathways, sensory spaces for venues hosting competitions that are suitable for all - including disabled people - but also FIFA's constant commitment to research and adopting the highest international quality standards in this area," he said.
The FIFA president praised the work carried out by the Italian Government in favour of disabled people, citing the creation of a special Ministry for Disabilities as a significant development. He also emphasised the work of the Italian Paralympic Committee, which he said had achieved "extraordinary goals" in the competition field under the leadership of Luca Pancalli.
"Congratulations not only to the Italian Government and the Italian Paralympic Committee, but also to this extraordinary team of Italian athletes for their success, which is a source of great inspiration for everyone."