A joint delegation of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and FIFA on Wednesday named Liberian President, George Weah, as its first Ambassador of the newly-launched Pan-African Inter-School Championship.
The championship was launched by South African billionaire and CAF president, Dr. Patrice Motsepe, on Tuesday in Abidjan but will become effective between 2022 and 2023, in collaboration with FIFA.
According to the CAF media channel, Weah’s appointment was made in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, where the delegation visited as part of its three-nation African tour. It had visited Cote d’Ivoire and will end its mission in Sierra Leone.
It said that the delegation met with the Liberian Football Association (LFA) and government officials and they discussed “Partnerships with the public and private sectors, increased opportunities for youth through football”.
Upon arrival on Wednesday at the Monrovia Roberts Airport, the delegation was welcomed by the LFA President, Mustapha Raji, members of the LFA Executive Committee (EXCO) and the Minister of Youth and Sports, Zeogar Wilson.
The Mayor of Monrovia city, Jefferson T. Koijee, later presented the FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, with a key to the city as a gesture of friendship.
In the meeting with LFA EXCO, the delegation listened to the challenges facing Liberia’s football infrastructure, with CAF President, Dr Patrice Motsepe, underlining that Liberia had huge potentials 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.
The FIFA President 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.
In an official meeting with the Minister of Youth and Sports, CAF President 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 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.”
In an audience with President Weah, the parties discussed “Strengthening African and Liberian football”, with Infantino stating: “We are happy to be in a country so passionate about football. We are here to give you CAF’s and FIFA’s full support to take football into a new era and we will work with you to do this.”
Their 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 the CAF President. “It’s also our duty to make sure that all 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.
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 the kick-off, LFA President 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.
Responding, CAF President said “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!”