FOOTBALL FIFA President, Joseph Sepp Blatter is arriving in Botswana for a visit this Friday. Ask any Football Association in Africa whether he is a friend or foe to football, and they will say he is actually more than a true friend – a saviour. Forget, about the fact that his term in office has been clouded in controversy and allegations of corruption since 1998 when he succeeded Joao Havelange.
The fact is, African countries gained more from FIFA during the tenure of Blatter than that of any other FIFA President. Amongst some of the incentives that Blatter introduced and are paying dividends and contributing tremendously to the growth of continental and world football are the Goal Projects which he introduced in 1999, and Win With Africa in Africa (WIWA) which was introduced purely to enable all footballers in Africa to play on decent pitches. This he did with funding amounting USD110 million.
This is what brought Blatter to Botswana - to launch Goal Project III, which entails the setting up of yet another set of artificial turf fields adjacent to the Lekidi Centre. The Gaborone visit is part of his six-day tour of football nations, which started in Nouakchott, Mauritania with a stop-over in Guinea, and then culminating with a visit to South Africa where he will attend the finals of the Orange Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday.
A statement from FIFA shows that the aim and purpose of the programme is to fund and build football infrastructure in member nations all over the world. Under this programme, stadiums were built, training academies were financed and grassroots level football projects were inaugurated. FIFA ‘s next move was sought to equal the standards and infrastructures in each of its member countries. Further, the goal programme helps to establish transparent and modern football administrations free from government interference.
The last is to promote the long-term development of each of its member countries and promote peace and understanding between them. An artificial pitch is to be installed in all but one of Africa’s 53 member countries, the only exception being World Cup hosts South Africa. Botswana’s benefit from the Goal Project is the building of football headquarters, Lekidi Centre, and two hostel blocks, as well as having laid the turf on the Molepolole Sports Complex.
Speaking to BG Sport this week, former BFA president David Fani said his administration had invited Blatter to visit the country during his tenure. “He is fulfilling that promise and it is a good thing that he is visiting,” he said. Fani said he expected Blatter to hold talks with the BFA and meet the country’s leadership to hopefully exchange ideas around the development of football.
I do not know if the constituency league will be one of the issues discussed, it will be up to government officials to raise the matter,” he explained. Fani, a member of the COSAFA Executive Committee said FIFA had approved the Goal Project III to build an artificial lawn at Lekidi. He explained that the Goal Project III was only left with a contractual agreement between FIFA and a preferred contractor. Quizzed on what it will take to reach Goal Project IV, Fani said it was left to the BFA to work hard towards the goal.
The former BFA president added that Botswana could be enjoying the benefits of Goal Project IV on par with other countries but the BFA had no FIFA Goal Projects between 2004 and 2008 when he took over as president. Another former BFA president and the current MP for Shoshong Philip Makgalemele this week said there was a lot that can be learnt from Blatter’s visit.
“FIFA has done a lot in terms of strategy for grass roots development and expertise in the mobilisation of resources and sponsorship for the game,” he said, adding that football administration is another area that can benefit from the visit.
Regarding the constituency league, Makgalemele said he did not have much to say on the subject, adding that the BFA and government have to work together to see how the constituency league can contribute positively. “My view is that we have a good story to present with regards to FIFA Goal Projects I and II. This can serve as motivation and a positive influence on him,” he added.