In continuation of a three-nation tour by Dr. Patrice Motsepe, President of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), which newsmen reported on recently, a joint CAF and FIFA delegation arrived in Liberia on Thursday, to hold meetings in Monrovia with the Liberian Football Association and government officials.
The meetings were scheduled to hold discussions on public, private partnerships, 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 project.
The high-powered football delegation, which included top ranking members of FIFA and CAF, was 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, upon arrival at Monrovia Roberts Airport on Wednesday night.
The FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, who was part of the delegation, was honoured in the Monrovia city itself by the city’s Mayor Jefferson T. Koijee. He received the delegation to the capital and presented Infantino with a key to the city in a gesture of friendship and honour.
Early on Thursday morning, the delegation met with the LFA EXCO, where the challenges Liberia faced with football infrastructure were highlighted. CAF President, Motsepe, stressed the huge potential of Liberia to football, and noted that this potential could be harnessed to provide more opportunities for the youths in the country, while pointing out the need to work together as the best way forward for Football in Africa.
This message was reinforced by Infantino in his remarks at the meeting. The FIFA President referenced the status of Liberia’s President, the iconic George Oppong Weah, as a great example of the positive impact football can have on any country in the world. Recall that Weah remains the only African footballer to have won the FIFA World Player of the Year award.
Speaking to the LFA EXCO about the challenges they raised, 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 next port of call for the delegation and Liberia’s Minister of Youth and Sports was a visit to the Samuel K Doe Football Complex, which had been fitted with a new turf pitch through funding from the FIFA Forward programme.
Infantino, who was pleased with what he saw of the complex, 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.”
After that visit, the delegation proceeded to have an audience with Liberian President, His Excellency George Weah, himself. Central to these high profile discussions was the strengthening of African and Liberian football. The FIFA President assured the country of FIFA’s backing: “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.”
At the end of talks, Presidents Motsepe and Infantino presented President Weah with a certificate that boldly announced him as the first Ambassador of the Pan-African Inter-School Football Championship project.
At the presentation of the certificate, Infantino had this to say: “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.”
For the final lap of their visit, the joint delegation paid a visit to the construction work taking place at the headquarters of the LFA. There, discussions bordering on the developments that have taken place in expanding women’s football in the country, took place before the delegation was treated to a women’s youth football match at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium.
In appreciation, the LFA President Mustapha Raji and the Ministers of Education and Youth and Sports, all 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 their country.
The final words were given by Motsepe, who concluded with: “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!”