Tuesday 12 March 2024, 11:45

Benin's football development focus of Paris talks

  • FIFA's Director Member Associations Africa, Gelson Fernandes, meets Benin's Sports Minister and Football Association President

  • West African nation in FIFA coach pilot programme as part of Talent Development Scheme

  • Elite women's football centre next dynamic project in pipeline

Benin's Sports Minister Benoît M. K. Dato and Beninese Football Association (FBF) President and FIFA Council member Mathurin de Chacus talked football development in the West African nation with FIFA's Director Member Associations Africa, Gelson Fernandes, at a meeting in FIFA's Paris office. The FBF has made excellent use of football's ability to work hand-in-hand with education, and in collaboration with the country's government and FIFA, they have already given football a key role in the nation's academic culture. The talks in Paris, France, centred on reinforcing this connection to give more Beninese girls and boys the chance to play the game while simultaneously learning academic and life skills.

Benin Sport Minister Benoît M. K. Dato (C), FIFA Council Member Mathurin de Chacus, FIFA Member Associations Director Africa Gelson Fernandes and guests pose for a photo during a meeting at FIFA Paris Offices

Funding from the FIFA Forward programme has been used to significantly improve football infrastructure across Benin, including USD 1.5 million to construct a training centre in the north of the country aimed at giving fledgling talents in the region an opportunity to flourish. With the facilities now in place, discussions in the French capital also centred on building coaching and refereeing capacity, notably the arrival of a FIFA-accredited coach in Benin as part of the Talent Development Scheme (TDS). The TDS gives the most talented players a chance to reach elite level regardless of where they are born or their financial circumstances. As announced by FIFA's Chief of Global Football Development Arsène Wenger at the FIFA Football Summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in December last year, FIFA coaches will be deployed around the world to bolster the development of FIFA Academies.

FIFA aims to have 75 of these academies in place by 2027, and Benin was one of seven FIFA Member Associations selected to benefit from the expertise of a FIFA Talent Coach, along with the Kyrgyz Republic, Costa Rica, Venezuela, South Africa, Fiji and Finland. In Paris, getting the coach on the ground as quickly as possible was another central theme discussed. "The three parties all want to work even more closely together," Mr Fernandes explained. "What we have achieved, FIFA, the Benin government and the FBF, by working together is remarkable, and shows just how much progress can be made through teamwork." A key aspect of discussions related to the next step, notably in terms of women's football in Benin. Currently outside the top 30 of African teams in the FIFA/Coca-Cola women's world rankings, Benin is keen to improve.

Benin Sport Minister Benoît M. K. Dato and FIFA Member Associations Director Africa Gelson Fernandes

FIFA Forward 3.0, which will provide each of FIFA's 211 Member Associations with up to USD 8 million over the next four years to finance football development projects, will underpin plans to build a national women's football centre in Lokossa in the south-west of the country. The centre's focus will be on developing elite level women footballers for Benin. "This facility will mark a major step forward in Benin's football history," said Fernandes. "We discussed the plans and how to progress them, and I assured both the Minister and the President that FIFA will be alongside them every step of the way to see this magnificent, ground-breaking project come to life."