FIFA Congress

Mauritius all set for FIFA Congress

General view of the Swami Vivekananda International Convention Centre Port Louis on May 28, 2013
© Getty Images

Ahead of the opening of the 63rd FIFA Congress in Mauritius on 30 May, looks at the work involved in staging the event, and speaks to one of the men responsible for organising this year's edition.

Organising a FIFA Congress is always a highly complex task. This year's event will welcome around 1,300 guests and require 60 tonnes of material - 4.5 of which will be shipped from Zurich. It will involve 4044 flight segments, with 50 printers and 150 network cables needed to serve FIFA's offices.

It is, by anyone's standards, a huge logistical undertaking. And for this year's host country, Mauritius, a small island of 1,865 sq km (720 sq miles) and a population of 1.2 million, it is one that poses its own particular set of hurdles.

"We have indeed faced many challenges," said Rooben Armoogum, who has been managing the project for the Mauritius Football Association (MFA). "Securing the site for the Congress was not an easy task. Neither was getting shipments of material from Zurich, Hungary and South Africa through customs, or preparing the welcome for all the delegates."

This year's FIFA Congress will be held at the Swami Vivekananda International Convention Centre (SVICC), a 17,000-sq-metre venue built on 53,865 sq metres of land in the Pailles region of Mauritius. Delegates, meanwhile, will be staying in six different hotels on the island.

"My first project on joining the MFA was to prepare the candidacy application for the Congress," Armoogum explained. "We presented it in February 2011 and it was accepted in May. FIFA made its first visit in September 2011, and its second in July 2012. And since October 2012, when the exact brief was defined, it has become pretty much a full-time job for me."

The FIFA Congress is an international event with attendees from around the world, which means that organisers can afford to leave no stone unturned in their preparations. "We've worked with every authority in the country: immigration, customs, health, tourism, civil aviation, airports and transport," said Armoogum. "Thousands of people are indirectly involved in the FIFA Congress, while hundreds are working, or have worked, on the project."

Beyond the obvious prestige, hosting the FIFA Congress brings a host of benefits for Mauritius. "For a small country like ours, organising such an event and hosting some 1,300 delegates is a fantastic opportunity," said Armoogum. "Some of them have never been to Mauritius, while others have possibly never even heard of our island."

"It's an incredible opportunity for us to show them our country, and it can definitely be a springboard for our tourism industry," he continued. "It's very positive for our economic development, with all the work it has created. And it's also a chance to raise the island's image."

Armoogum has been the MFA's planning and development officer since December 2010. His job involves coordinating development plans, launching and seeing through projects, and preparing training for managers at the Federation. An accountant by trade, Armoogum holds qualifications in sports management (obtained through the Olympic Solidarity programme) and business administration, and brings considerable experience to his role.

His days are long, typically starting at 8:00am and finishing around 11.00pm, but he knows it is all part of the job for someone responsible for such a large-scale project. "You must always be alert, on top of everything, and never leave anything to chance," he said. "In general, following FIFA's strict standards is a real challenge. But it's also a unique and unforgettable experience."

Armoogum's tired expression show just how demanding the FIFA Congress project has been. But it is a project he has executed with passion, driven by the chance to put his country in the spotlight. "We're going to show all of the delegates how Mauritius helped to pioneer the 11 for Health and Grassroots programmes, and how it's a huge source of pride for us," he said.

"We've also chosen 450 children from across the island, all of them from football academies in disadvantaged areas, to be flag bearers," he went on. "It's an extraordinary experience for them, and I'm delighted by it. The Congress also allows us to put Mauritius on the world map, which is no small thing either."

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