A joint CAF and FIFA delegation travelled to Liberia to hold meetings today with the Liberian Football Association and government officials in Monrovia. Partnerships with the public and private sectors, increased opportunities for youth through football and the appointment of Liberian President George Weah as the first Ambassador of the Pan-African Inter-School Championship were among the topics discussed.
Upon arrival last night at Monrovia Roberts Airport, the delegation were greeted by Liberia Football Association (LFA) President Mustapha Raji, members of the LFA Executive Committee (EXCO) and Minister of Youth and Sports, the Honorable D. Zeogar Wilson. In Monrovia city, Mayor Jefferson T. Koijee welcomed the delegations to the capital and presented the FIFA President with a key to the city in a gesture of friendship.
This morning, the delegation attended a meeting with the LFA EXCO, listening to the challenges it is facing with football infrastructure. CAF President Dr Patrice Motsepe underlined to members present that Liberia had huge potential, which could be harnessed by providing more opportunities for youth through football. He also stressed that working together for the good of African football is the best way to ensure progress for the game and the continent. FIFA President Gianni Infantino reinforced this message, referencing the iconic George Weah – now President of Liberia – as a great example of the positive impact football can have on a country.
An official meeting with the Minister of Youth and Sports followed. CAF President Dr Motsepe said: “We hear your concerns and would like to assure you of CAF’s commitment to work with Liberian football and government authorities to improve football infrastructure here.”
The delegation, together with the Minister of Youth and Sports, then visited the Samuel K Doe Football Complex, which has been fitted with a new turf pitch through funding from the FIFA Forward programme. Speaking at the complex, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said: “FIFA believes that every country should have access to the best quality pitches and football facilities, and we will work with CAF to bring about more improvements to Liberia.”
An audience with Liberian President, His Excellency George Weah, followed. Strengthening African and Liberian football was central to discussions, with Gianni Infantino stating: “We are happy to be in a country so passionate about football. We are here to give you CAF and FIFA’s full support to take football into a new era and we will work with you to do this.”
Talks also covered the power of football on economies. “Football and economic development go hand in hand, so let’s try through football to invest in job creation,” said CAF President Dr Motsepe. “It’s also our duty to make sure stadia meet the required standards, and CAF will work with the Liberian authorities to do so.”
The conclusion of the meeting saw the CAF and FIFA Presidents present President Weah – the only African to have won the FIFA World Player of the Year award – with a certificate announcing him as the first Ambassador of the Pan-African Inter-School Football Championship.
Gianni Infantino said: “President Weah is an icon of football and now a respected statesman. FIFA and CAF are delighted to have his support. His stellar football career is an inspiration to young Africans and we welcome him on board this initiative, supported by the African Union, which will see football competitions at national level in schools throughout Africa. Football offers us a unique opportunity to connect with young people and empower them through this programme.”
The joint delegation then visited the construction site at the headquarters of the LFA to discuss the developments that have taken place in expanding women’s football in the country, before attending a women’s youth football match at Antoinette Tubman Stadium.
Before kick-off, LFA President Mustapha Raji thanked both the CAF and FIFA Presidents for visiting his country and for believing in the power of football to give hope, education and joy to children in Liberia. This was followed by addresses from the Minister of Education and Youth and Sports respectively.
CAF President Dr Motsepe’s took to the stage for a short address, concluding: “We must be proud of and thankful to the LFA President for his excellent work. Football has a bright future here. The girl who is going to be the African winner of The Best FIFA Women’s Player Award could be here today!”