Friday 06 October 2023, 15:00

European and Central Asian member associations share knowledge at Tashkent workshop

  • The workshop followed FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s visit to Central Asia in May

  • The member associations exchanged ideas on selected football topics

  • FIFA is aiming to “bridge the gap” between different football regions

Raising the standard of football across the world is a key part of FIFA’s mission and one very effective method of doing this is by knowledge sharing and collaboration between member associations in different regions. With this in mind, the first-ever FIFA Europe/Central Asia workshop took place in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, at the start of the October where representatives from several European member associations exchanged ideas with their Central Asian counterparts on a number of football topics. The workshop followed on from FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s visit to Central Asia in May 2023 where he witnessed the work that is being undertaken with the support of the FIFA Forward development programme. The six member associations from the Central Asian Football Association (CAFA) region - Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyz Republic, IR Iran and Afghanistan - took part in the workshop alongside Azerbaijan, Austria, Czechia, Hungary, Portugal, Turkey and Kazakhstan from UEFA.

“The objective back in May when FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, visited Central Asia and of today’s workshop is simple; we want to bridge the gap between football levels globally and build an appropriate platform where football development initiatives and expertise can be shared,“ said Sanjeevan Balasingham, FIFA Director Member Associations Asia & Oceania in his opening address. “Central Asia is an important partner to FIFA´s global football development efforts.” The selected topics included the sustainability of elite club competitions, investment in infrastructure, women’s football development, hosting of international tournaments and effective financial controlling. Others included a panel on youth football development presented by the Uzbekistan FA, and futsal and beach soccer development presented by IR Iran Football Federation.

“This is our first seminar held in such a way where Asia and Europe are meeting to discuss various aspects of football development and the development of football federations. Of course, we – FIFA – will try and hold more and more such events not only in Asia but also in Europe, in Africa and on other continents,” said Elkhan Mammadov, Regional Director Europe, FIFA Member Associations Europe. “Such seminars provide an opportunity to gain additional knowledge and experience in the development and management of football in general.” The General Secretary of the Tajikistan Football Federation (TFF), Furkatzhon Akhmedzhanov, agreed that it was an invaluable opportunity for both regions. “This is a football community where we can exchange experiences and potentially agree on any further cooperation, and friendlies [fixtures] especially at youth level. If such events are to be held more frequently, it will give a big boost to our region in the development of football,” he said.

European member associations also found it invaluable. “In such workshops, we are all able to learn something from each other,” said Thomas Hollerer, General Secretary of the Austrian Football Association (OeFB). “It is extremely rewarding when you also see how other cultural groups, other associations with different opportunities, means and distances – for example, in Uzbekistan, it is a completely different story to what we have in Europe – deal with that and drive football forward.” Uzbekistan will become the first Central Asian country to host a FIFA event with the FIFA Futsal World Cup in 2024, while Mr Balasingham said that FIFA will have invested over USD 115million in football development in Central Asia from 2016 to 2026 through the Forward programme. He added: “We hope that with the increased investment and with the next FIFA World Cup expanding to 48 teams and FIFA youth tournaments being organised annually, teams from this region will have more opportunities to showcase their talents at the world stage.”