Hayatou: Africa is the future

Friday 9 May 2014

/ by Colin Udoh

CAF's first Football Centre of Excellence was officially opened Monday 5th May by CAF president Issa Hayatou and FIFA president Sepp Blatter during which time the CAF football head said the development represented a massive leap for the continent's soccer development.

The official opening of the Center of Excellence Mbankomo took place 30kilometres outside Yaounde. Similar centers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Dakar, Senegal are scheduled in the coming months.

On the sidelines of the official opening of the center, Hayatou emphasized the significance of the center, the brighter prospects of the African game and why African football holds the brightest promise for the future.

Of what importance is this infrastructure (the CAF Centres of Excellence) to the development of African football?

One of the drawbacks to the development of football in Africa is undeniably the problem of infrastructure. Africa is blessed with a rich pool of talents. But the issue most often is the lack of a conducive environment to fully harness these talents. So, new infrastructure as modest as it may be, is always welcome. We also know that, sometimes, due to the lack of an adequate environment that meets the optimum conditions for efficient training, many African countries choose go to Europe or Asia for the preparation of national teams or contesting clubs to compete on the continent. The choice is generally more demanding and most often not effective by reason of the climatic differences that could be. The CAF Centre of Excellence of Mbankomo, just like the others that will follow, notably in Addis-Ababa – Ethiopia and Dakar – Senegal, I think, is a more than credible alternative; it meets all required conditions and even has the infrastructure and environment which most so-called developed countries have and may have been the envy of Africa. Each of these Centres is situated within a peculiar ecosystem. Mbankomo is in the heart of the forest, Addis-Abeba is some 2500m of altitude and Dakar is in the Sahelo-Sahelian region of Africa.

This centre has been operating for some years already. Is there a particular reason for inaugurating now?

The Centre was made operational in 2010, at the end of phase I of its construction in 2009. But within this time, the construction of phases II and III went on and were completed in March 2014. This is why the inauguration is done at this time because the Centre is in its optimum form, though I would say not final. We are thinking of adding a 2nd field with natural turf.

It should be noted that of the 23 hectares conceded by the Cameroon government to CAF in 2004, we have exploited up to a third till now. That gives us an allowance. May I also take advantage of this opportunity to express my gratitude to the officials of Cameroon, without whose support this project may not have been successful.

How is your collaboration with FIFA and the importance of the presence of FIFA President Sepp Blatter to this event?

President Blatter has always been concerned especially on issues about the development of African football. After all our first meeting dates back to the time when he was in charge of development programmes at FIFA and when I was the Secretary General of the Cameroonian Football Federation, about 40 years ago. His presence speaks certainly of the interest he has for the development of football on the continent. FIFA, like the government of Cameroon, has been an important partner in the realisation of this Centre of Excellence. The tarred access way to the Centre, from the Yaoundé–Douala highway was funded with the financial support of FIFA. FIFA is also one of the regular users of the Centre, because here, FIFA will henceforth carryout its numerous visits aimed at building up the capacities of the different actors of football in Africa.

It should be noted that the President of FIFA wanted to be present at this inauguration so as to reorganize his agenda. That says it.

The CAF Centre is being inaugurated with about a month to the kick-off of the World Cup in Brazil where five African countries are in the running for the title. Has CAF put up a plan to support them?

At the end of last February, CAF brought together in Cairo the Presidents of the five African federations that qualified for the World Cup to discuss with them the type of support they would rightfully be expecting from the Confederation of African Football. Following the consultation, the CAF Executive Committee launched the Cairo Call, aimed at mobilising the entire continent behind these five representatives. The initiative is aimed at creating a positive synergy of backing our representatives by reminding the daughters and sons of Africa that the five countries represent one entire continent.

A platform for information exchange between the teams has also been put in place for you know that the World Cup opponents of Nigeria for example could be put to contest friendly matches with other African representatives. Following those encounters, there will be effective sharing of information and observations about any cush opponents. CAF has committed to freely offer the Mbankomo Centre of Excellence to every African team participating at the FIFA World Cup that shall request it for its preparations.

CAF has appointed the President of the South African Football Association, Danny Jordaan, who was also the cornerstone of the organisation of 2010 World Cup in South Africa to assist the African teams in Brazil.

Cameroon is a candidate for the organization of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. According to you, what assets has Cameroon got?

We have six candidate countries. Notably Guinea, Ivory Coast, Algeria, Cameroon the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Zambia. Each of these countries has strengths to host the championship. In order to have a measuring unit, the CAF Executive Committee set up a single evaluation Commission, as at the International Olympics Committee (IOC) and at FIFA, which is at work since April and will travel through all these countries. It will tender its reports to the Executive Committee, which shall then proceed to vote the host country in September, based on the field reports.

The World Cup was held in South Africa in 2010 particularly to give a boost to the development of football on the continent. Four years later, do you think the competition has been helpful?

An entire heritage programme was put in place at the level of FIFA so that all of Africa could benefit from the legacy or the fall-backs of that World Cup. Through the programme "Win in Africa with Africa," African football federations benefited in various ways including construction of playgrounds, training venues and other infrastructure. If South Africa could agree to swap with Libya Nations Cup hosting rights at short notice for the 2013 Nations Cup and be able to host the 2014 African Champions Cup, it is because all the infrastructure used for the organization of the best World Cup in history were still in place. The World Cup was a blow in the face of afro-pessimists and proof that great things can be done in our continent. There were many people who doubted South Africa in particular and Africa in general. Their views have since changed. I am proud to have served as the President of FIFA Organizing Committee in South Africa.  

You have placed your mandate on “Sustaining Achievements.” Could we however expect some major innovations?

Sustaining achievements is not something easy. To give you an example, the CAF Executive Committee decided last January to amend the regulations of all CAF competitions in order to bring in a clause that combats the piracy of the images of our competitions by television. So henceforth, if a television of a country that has not obtained the rights, broadcasts a match of a CAF competition, the team shall be suspended from the said competition. It is with strong hearts that we came to such a decision. But the greater part of CAF’s income today is from TV rights, which allows us to financially support the clubs and federations and to continue to maintain the autonomy and proper functioning of CAF, a task into which we have committed ourselves since taking up office at the head of the organisation.

Today we organise 11 competitions. There were just four in 1988. Soon there is going to be a 12th for CAF will take back the African Beach-soccer championship under its auspices. Some years ago, we launched a licensing programme for coaches over the continent. The programme of licensing clubs, which aims at giving African clubs a professional structure, is on course. A programme for the development of arbitration will be launched in order to guarantee training to youths interested in this job from age 12 as it is done with footballers. We will contribute to creating building careers and creating jobs. Those are innovations, which are not apparent, but which in the medium and long term will be decisive for a better development of African football. So there is always room for innovation. Africa is the future of the world and this is true of every area, even football. We are aware of it


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