Wednesday 09 November 2022, 08:00

FIFA Secretary General pledges support for youth football in Ethiopia

  • Visit saw FIFA Secretary General discuss Football for Schools programme with nation’s President

  • Football equipment donated to underprivileged children in Dire Dawa

  • Fatma Samoura reinforced the positive values of football

FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura concluded two days of meetings with stakeholders from government and sport in Ethiopia today, in the company of a delegation from the Horn of Africa.

On Sunday in an audience with Sahle Work Zewde, the President of Federal Republic of Ethiopia, along with CAF Vice President and Djibouti Football Federation President Souleiman Waberi, Ethiopia Football Federation President Esayas Jira and Secretary General Bahiru Tilahun Limenih, discussions centred around FIFA Football for Schools Programme. In particular, the importance of playing sport, both for the benefits of personal health, as well as the learning of life skills such as teamwork, fair play and communication was highlighted.

During the meeting with President Sahle Worke Zewde, FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura updated her on plans to travel to the eastern Ethiopian city of Dire Dawa to make a donation of football equipment to a sports facility for underprivileged young players.

FIFA’s Football for Schools programme was also discussed, with the FIFA Secretary General underlining the huge positive potential the initiative has for young people in Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country.

Football for Schools (F4S) is run by FIFA, in collaboration with UNESCO, and aims to contribute to the education, development and empowerment of around 700 million children worldwide. It seeks to make football more accessible to both boys and girls worldwide by incorporating football activities into the education system, in partnership with relevant authorities and stakeholders.

The delegation then travelled to Dire Dawa, or the City of Laughter as it is also known, for a series of meetings and engagements with local government and sports representatives.

Dignitaries welcomed the group, followed by initial talks on the football landscape in Dire Dawa, a city with a population of around 500,000.

Dire Dawa International Stadium was the next port of call. The historic venue was the location for the 1976 CAF Africa Cup of Nations. Before the Ethiopian Premier League game got underway the FIFA delegation met with both teams, including the match officials on the pitch.

Ethiopia’s influence on African football history was an abiding theme during the delegation’s visit to Dire Dawa and the following day a meeting took place at the Office of the Mayor, led by Deputy Mayor Harib Bouh Warsama.

In discussions with national media, local officials and sports enthusiasts, the Deputy Mayor outlined plans to invest in a football turf pitch and academy, which will help develop the city’s Ethiopian Premier League club in future.

The FIFA Secretary General pledged FIFA’s support to develop football in the city stating: “Since I arrived here I can see how people eat, sleep and breathe football. Through FIFA’s Football for Schools initiative we will assist the development of youth football in this city and hand in hand with the Ethiopian Football Federation, we will help to reinforce Dire Dawa’s football infrastructure.”

A visit to the Ethio-Italy football field to meet youth coaches and children’s teams was followed by a meet and greet with students at the Sapian Primary and Secondary School. Here, in talks with school authorities, the FIFA Secretary General reinforced the positive values of football and the importance it can have on helping young people to lead a healthy life.

The grounds of 07 Kebele, an astroturf facility, and several of its youth squads then welcomed the group before the delegation travelled to Dire Dawa Youth and Sport Academy.

Established five years ago the Academy has over 120 young players, both male and female and provides an environment where children can play football whilst simultaneously receiving an education.

There the FIFA delegation presented the children with a substantial donation of football equipment, including jerseys & shorts.

Speaking at the Dire Dawa Youth and Sport Academy the FIFA Secretary General said: “It is a tremendous honour to be surrounded by so many passionate young footballers. I’m especially pleased to learn that the girls teams here are on the rise, with several of the female players having progressed to women’s leagues in Addis Ababa. We are thrilled to provide equipment to the Academy and we look forward to working closely with all the key stakeholders in Ethiopia to develop youth football further.”