The President of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), Dr. Ahmad Ahmad, recently paid a working visit to Eritrea. He was accompanied by football delegates from the national federations of Ethiopia, Somalia, and Djibouti. Today, we feature excerpts of their press conference in Asmara.
-Dr. Ahmad: It is a pleasure to be here. Eritrea has been a member of CAF for almost 20 years now. At the moment, the duty of the management staff is to visit every CAF member state. The development of football has regressed in many parts of Africa and we cannot revitalize the game without the full participation of all countries. Active participation has to come not only from the big nations, who have participated in big events across the globe, but also from countries like Eritrea, who are doing a lot of things locally for the development of football.
In summary, first of all, this afternoon, I witnessed how responsible the football federation is in developing football in the country. This gives us great hope to work together. Secondly, collaboration by FIFA and CAF has paved the way for training in many aspects of the game. CAF has also started to redistribute revenues among its member states. Moving forward, we will try to find a way to make it possible for Eritrea to participate in major competitions.
Working hard and training is part of the game and with competition we can grow. Competition is part of development. Bearing this in mind, Eritrea is going to participate in the qualifying stages of most competitions, such as the African Cup of Nations, for youth and women.
Furthermore, the media will have a pivotal role to play in the development of the game in the region. For us, the media is a key stakeholder in football. Media is a part of the football family. We cannot promote football without the media. Thus, we have to cooperate very closely and transparently.
- -Dr. Ahmad during your stay, you held brief discussions with the President of the Eritrean Football Federation and the Commissioner of Culture and Sports. Can you please tell us about those discussions?
-Dr. Ahmad: First of all, it is my duty to meet with all governing bodies of football in each country that I visit. Second, our vision is to have a close working relationship with all member countries and to create a platform for countries of this region to work together towards the development of football. As we move forward, we have so many things to do – one party cannot everything on its own. With close cooperation between CAF, FIFA, governments, and the football federations, we can promote football and youth in Eritrea.
I thank my entire delegation for being here and taking the first steps towards creating firm solidarity between the governing bodies of each country in the region. We have already agreed to hold a football competition in Asmara in the near future to promote peace and football in the region.
- -CAF’s role in promoting football in the region
CAF praises and supports the initiatives taken by both countries to create lasting peace in the region. We sincerely congratulate the people. Peace creates a platform making it easy for all football governing bodies in the region and CAF to work together and exchange ideas and hold regular competitions. Part of the change we would like to introduce at CAF is giving considerable notice to nations in the CECAFA and COSAFA region. In that way, we will come up with ways to ensure everyone is considered going forward.
- -On the future of referees in Eritrea
-Suleiman Hassan (Chairman of CAF Referee Committee, President of the Djibouti Football Association, and member of the CAF Referee Committee):
This is not my first time to Eritrea. I was here in March and met with most of the staff of the referee committee. I was very impressed with the facilities I saw. Earlier this year, CAF made several changes with regard to referees. These changes included that referees designated for CAF matches would be paid directly by CAF. The decision reduces the financial burden on national associations and also eliminates ethical challenges, since payments are from an independent party, rather than a national association.
CAF also has increased the number of referees enrolled while adapting a four-year plan for referee development. This is in order to help referee associations improve and develop quality referees.
During my visit, I held discussions with members of the Eritrean Referees Association, and we exchanged ideas and shared our experiences and vision. One thing I can say for sure is that I am encouraged to see Eritrea working relentlessly towards producing quality and physically fit referees. Yesterday, I was told the referee committee in Eritrea invests about $US 50,000 per year on the development of referees. This is the first time I have heard about this in Africa and the fact should be applauded.
Now, with the normalized relations with Ethiopia, Eritrean referees can easily travel to officiate African games. They have already officiated three games this week. CAF is proactive in this aspect and we are here to help the national federation grow and improve all aspects of the game in the country.
- -Recently, developments toward peace and cooperation have unfolded across the Horn of Africa. What do you see in store for the region moving forward, particularly in relation to the growth or development of football?
-Mr. Isaias Jira (President of the Ethiopia Football Federation): Words cannot express how I feel at the moment. Eritrea is my second home and I am quite happy to be here again after nearly 27 years. First, I would like to thank Dr. Abiy and President Isaias for taking such courageous and historic steps to normalize ties between both countries. They sat at one table, discussed the issues, and they tore down the wall. I would like to say that I am here to clear the road. I was happy to find out that the name of the President of the Eritrea Football Federation is also Isaias. And we Isaias’ get things done. As a nation that is also enthusiastic about football we are ready to do what we can to develop the game in the region. We are delighted to participate in the upcoming peace competition. We hope that this will be the first of many competitions held in the region. I would like to take this chance to thank to Dr. Ahmad Ahmad for supporting us and donating money to support the competition.
-Mr. Abdiqani Said (President of the Somalia Football Federation): Peace has provided an opportunity for all countries in the Horn of Africa to work together to develop football. Through football, we can sustain peace and grow together. It will be a pleasure to participate in the peace competition and we hope that many more competitions will be held in the future.
- Final comments
-Mr. Isaias Abraham (President of the Eritrean Football Federation): It is a pleasure to have Dr. Ahmad and his delegation in Eritrea. As you know, the Eritrean Football Federation has been working hard over the years to promote and develop football in the country. Now, with peace and cooperation between the countries of the Horn of Africa, it will be a collective effort. Together, we are stronger and we need to plan to take football in the region to the next level.