Puerto Rico emerges stronger after storm crisis

20 Aug 2021

  • FIFA Foundation funding supported island following Hurricanes Maria and Irma

  • “It was a monster that swallowed our little island”

  • Over 50 clubs helped with floodlighting, pitch repair and facility improvement

In September 2017, Hurricanes Maria and Irma devastated Puerto Rico. The island suffered catastrophic damage and a humanitarian crisis, leading to the destruction of homes and buildings, severe flooding and loss of life.

All football activities were halted, and facilities were badly affected. With support from the FIFA Foundation Recovery Programme, however, the Puerto Rican Football Federation (FPF) was able to repair football facilities at over 50 venues.

“The pitches were full of debris, and we didn’t have any electricity,” explained Maria Inés Lugo, Puerto Rican Football Federation (FPF) General Secretary. “It wasn’t a safe environment for our players to play football. Football took a huge hit from these storms and we had a long recovery ahead of ourselves.”

Pedro López Rivera, President of Bairoa FC, describes it as if the island had been completely devoured by a force far greater than they were prepared for. “It was a monster which came onto our little island and swallowed it, literally,” he said. “We had no electricity, no water... It was something I thought I would never experience.”

The FIFA Regional Office, based in Panama, quickly reacted and within a fortnight after the hurricanes had struck, assistance was on its way. FIFA were on hand to assess the extent of the damage and determine how best to support the devastated island. Using FIFA Foundation Recovery Programme resources, USD 500,000 was made available to help rebuild football – and communities – on the island.

A total of 53 football clubs and facilities across the island were helped to repair and replace floodlighting and fencing, restoring pitches and rebuilding stadium infrastructure.

FIFA Foundation Recovery Programme: Puerto Rico

Ivan Rivera Gutiérrez, FPF President, explains how FIFA funding not only made a difference when it was needed most, but also can achieve a legacy through investment. “[FIFA] provided excellent support because it was a significant amount of money for our federation.”

He added: “FIFA Forward literally became our main way of supporting our operations. The funds play a vital role in the federation’s development and will do so in the coming years.”