Thursday,16 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1296, (19 - 25 May 2016)
Thursday,16 August, 2018
Issue 1296, (19 - 25 May 2016)

Ahram Weekly

On the ball

The 66th FIFA Congress kicked off a new era for global football with the announcement of a “step change” in football development, reports Inas Mazhar

Al-Ahram Weekly

The FIFA Congress took place in Mexico City, 30 years after the country hosted its first congress in 1986. The congress was different than the previous editions as it also saw FIFA’s newly-elected Gianni Infantino leading the FIFA Congress activities.

The FIFA changes included FIFA appointing a female as the new FIFA secretary- general for the first time, progress on the implementation of the reforms, and the FIFA Legends programme.
To build on his manifesto pledges, Infantino presented “FIFA Forward”, a complete overhaul of FIFA’s football development programmes. FIFA Forward provides 360-degree, tailor-made support for football development in each of FIFA’s member associations and the six confederations. FIFA will significantly increase its investment to $5 million for each member association per four-year cycle for football projects and support for running costs. The use of funds will be monitored closely through enhanced compliance, accountability and transparency, with all member associations required to publish independent audits of their finances as per the new FIFA Forward regulations.

The new FIFA president also announced the appointment by the FIFA Council of Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura of Senegal as FIFA’s new secretary-general, the first woman and African to hold the post. She will be replacing former secretary-general Frenchman Jereome Valcke who was banned by the FIFA ethics committee.

Samoura is a 21-year veteran of United Nations programmes who is currently the UN’s Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Nigeria. As required under FIFA’s statutes, Samoura will undergo an eligibility check by the independent Review Committee, per article 37 of the FIFA Statutes. If given the green light she will assume the role of secretary-general before mid-June.

“Fatma is a woman with international experience and vision who has worked on some of the most challenging issues of our time,” said Infantino. “She has a proven ability to build and lead teams, and improve the way organisations perform. Importantly for FIFA, she also understands that transparency and accountability are at the heart of any well-run and responsible organisation.”
The congress also saw other reforms in action as FIFA updated its member associations on the progress in the implementation of the reform process since new measures were approved in February during the extra-ordinary congress which was held in Zurich. The reforms, which are now operational within FIFA’s structures include enhanced compliance for revenue and spending; eligibility checks for new members of committees and senior positions; publication of individual compensation of senior FIFA officials; appointment of first independent members on key committees.

The president also announced the creation of a women’s football division in the FIFA administration to further support the promotion and development of women’s football. Regular “football summits” for member associations will start in the third quarter of 2016, with inter-confederation conferences involving about 20 associations designed to address important regional topics in football.

Meanwhile, Clarence Seedorf and Sun Wen presented the “FIFA Legends programme” which will support the organisation’s goal of giving a stronger voice to people directly involved in football. The FIFA Legends Team is designed to bring together former top players from the men’s and women’s game to promote and support football and its wider mission around the world, and to give something back to the game.

The Legends will focus on three main activities:

The FIFA Legends on Tour. Four two-day tours will take place in the first year, including additional events from grassroots clinics to fundraising and fan engagement.

The FIFA Legends Forum. Think-tank sessions which will create a platform to hear their views on current football affairs. These views will be shared with top decision-makers, authorities and policy committees in football.

The FIFA Legends Initiatives. Members of the Legends Team will act as ambassadors in key areas such as event promotion, football development, women’s football, diversity, health and sustainability projects.

The day before the congress, in an informal first-session, Infantino launched the “think-tank” sessions with a 90-minute-long conversation with the FIFA Legends team to hear their views on current football affairs. The FIFA Legends’ views will feed into ongoing consultation processes. The 43- year-old new president moderated a lively discussion between the former football greats.

”I would like to have your views on topics that are important for football. And who better than you, given that you have dedicated your lives to either playing or coaching,” said Infantino.

Coach Jose Mourinho welcomed the initiative. “This is the first time that FIFA has called on players, which is great and very much appreciated by us,” he said. “We can only understand the game better by listening to those who actually play the game — that’s the players.”

In the beautiful setting of the iconic Azteca Stadium, where Argentina clinched their last FIFA World Cup title 30 years ago, some of football’s finest players strapped on their boots again for a friendly 9-a-side match.

Former world champions like Alessandro Altobelli, Marcel Desailly, Ronaldinho, Fabio Cannavaro, Carles Puyol, in addition to Egypt’s own retired superstar Mohamed Abu Treika, mixed alongside stars of the women’s game, including FIFA Women’s World Cup winners Mia Hamm and Renate Lingor. Having played thousands of matches at the very highest level of the game, this group of 31 former champions now want to give something back to football and society, as well as support FIFA in its work to promote and develop the game, on and off the pitch.

In a fun, relaxed atmosphere to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Azteca stadium, the final result of the friendly was only of secondary importance. The Mexicans won 9-8 and both sets of players proved they have lost little of their spark. The game was a fantastic showcase of some football greats, as Pablo Aimar and Francisco Fonseca netted three goals for the respective teams. Both teams showed some great skills in scoring the goals and notably Ronaldinho showed off with his unique technique, drawing spontaneous applause from the spectators.

“I’m very happy to be here, in this iconic, monumental Stadium,” said Infantino, who watched the match on the bench alongside Mourinho and witnessed an entertaining goal fest.
The FIFA Congress followed the recommendation of the FIFA Council and confirmed the admission of Kosovo (141 “yes” to 23 “no” of valid votes cast) and Gibraltar (172 “yes” to 12 “no” of valid votes cast) as the 210th and 211th FIFA members. Both associations will be entitled to take part in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, with UEFA tasked to look into the best way to integrate Kosovo and Gibraltar in the preliminary competition.

In addition, the congress saw elections of new FIFA committee members in four different committees: governance, disciplinary, ethic and the audit and compliance committees.

 The congress also authorised the council to appoint office holders for the remaining vacant positions within the judicial bodies, the Audit & Compliance Committee and the Governance Committee until the 67th FIFA Congress, and to dismiss any office holder of these committees until the 67th FIFA Congress.

Ahead of the FIFA Congress, the council also appointed the following committee members, including former international top players Luis Figo, Mia Hamm and Theodoros Zagorakis.

Other decisions taken at the 67th congress included the FIFA council, ahead of the congress, lifting the suspension of the Football Association of Indonesia imposed in May 2015 and confirming the suspensions of Benin and Kuwait. The congress asked the FIFA council to lift these suspensions as soon as the necessary requirements are fulfilled.

 The congress extended the mandate of the FIFA Monitoring Committee Israel-Palestine, which was set up by the 65th FIFA Congress in 2015. Chaired by Tokyo Sexwale, the committee reported progress in facilitating the free movement of Palestinian people and goods connected with football. The FIFA president announced that he would travel to Palestine and Israel to help resolve the outstanding issue of five clubs playing in the disputed area that are affiliated to the Israel Football Association.

Amid the FIFA Congress and the fun and games, FIFA’s compliance chairman resigned in protest on Saturday over what he sees as a power grab by the new president.

Domenico Scala called his resignation a “wake-up call” for those working to reform soccer’s scandal-battered ruling body.

Scala’s walkout — on the issue of taking hiring and firing power over himself and independent panels that monitor FIFA officials and money — comes amid claims of tension between him and Infantino over the presidential salary.

It marks a major test for Infantino’s presidency since he was elected to succeed Sepp Blatter in February promising more openness and modern leadership.

Scala has overseen FIFA’s billion-dollar annual spending since 2012, and could previously be removed only by a vote of the now-211 member federations at their annual meeting.

Tensions between the two Swiss-Italian men were exposed on Friday at FIFA’s Congress in Mexico City. Members voted in new powers to Infantino’s ruling council to fire Scala and ethics committee leaders who investigate corruption claims.

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