Wednesday 01 March 2023, 08:30

Coach development focus as FIFA President meets Finnish FA counterpart

  • Gianni Infantino and Ari Lahti discuss FIFA Forward’s positive impact in Finland

  • The Finnish Football Association are using funds to reinforce their coaching network

  • Finland’s FIFA Forward 3.0 focus will be women’s football development

The impact of FIFA Forward funding on coaching development in Finland was central to discussions when FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Finnish Football Association (SPL) President Ari Lahti met in Paris on Tuesday. The FIFA Forward programme distributes revenues to FIFA’s 211 member associations to help them develop football globally, and Finland’s focus for the funds has been reinforcing and improving the coaching network across the vast northern European country. “The founding principle of FIFA Forward is to grow the game and to help make football truly global. What better way to do that than invest in a coaching structure that can instruct and inspire generations of players,” said President Infantino. “The work of the Finnish Football Association is a prime example of how FIFA Forward can create a legacy that changes the face of football in a country.”

Football is booming in Finland with President Lahti noting the country has a record number of licensed players and said recent successes on the pitch in qualifying for the men’s and women’s UEFA EURO finals will become a more frequent occurrence with sustained investment. “Finland is a big country, so in order to do professional coaching processes and systems, we need to have these coaches of coaches and we use FIFA Forward money on that,” said President Lahti. “We’ve been doing that for several years and I think that we’ve seen some of the results now that our level of football is improving heavily. We are investing in trying to get people more interested, more younger players into football, and for that we need to invest in the number of coaches, in the future as well.” That future will have the development of women’s football as a central axis. FIFA Forward has already underpinned the SPL’s work in developing a three-pronged project involving women coaches mentoring, leadership programmes and women’s league club development and marketing. FIFA Forward 3.0 will be the cue to build on that foundation. “We want to grow the number of players; we want to grow the number of girls playing football,” the SPL President added. “We already have about 27% of all licensed players that are women and girls, which we are proud of, but we want to increase it closer to 30%, or maybe up to 33%, so that every third player in Finland would be a girl or a woman. So, that would be my goal.”

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