Thursday 08 February 2024, 10:55

FIFA President and Irish counterpart discuss Ireland's football future

  • Gianni Infantino and Football Association of Ireland (FAI) President Paul Cooke meet in Paris, France

  • FIFA President says Mr Cooke "in alignment" on giving everyone "opportunity to play the game we all love"

  • FAI President said FIFA can support organisation in improving football facilities across Ireland

FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Football Association of Ireland (FAI) President Paul Cooke have discussed plans to keep football in the country on its promising upward trajectory. Irish football has flourished in recent years with the women's national team one of eight debutants at the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023™ while the country's men's U21 squad qualified for their age category European Championship for the very first time last year. President Cooke was elected in December 2023, and outlined his ambitious plans to President Infantino during a meeting in Paris, France.

The Football Association of Ireland CEO Jonathan Hill, FIFA President Gianni Infantino, The Football Association of Ireland President Paul Cooke and FIFA Director Member Associations Europe Elkhan Mammadov during a Meeting at FIFA Paris Office

"In my meeting with Football Association of Ireland President Paul Cooke, I congratulated him on his recent election, and firmly believe his experience and knowledge of the game in the country will keep football in Ireland moving forward," said the FIFA President. "A first-ever qualification for the FIFA Women's World Cup was just reward for the work the FAI has done to develop women's football in particular, and President Cooke and I are in alignment on the goals we want to achieve: giving every girl - and boy - in Ireland and across the world the opportunity to play the game we all love."

The FAI used USD 2 million in FIFA Forward funds to cover most of the USD 2.75 million cost of the upkeep and development of the country's leading football venue, the 51,000-capacity Aviva Stadium, to ensure it can continue staging elite national team matches.

Mr Cooke explained, however, that the FAI would lean on FIFA again to improve infrastructure at every level of the game across the country, and ensure football could continue having a positive influence on Irish society.

"We recently published our facilities plan, which shows that we need to develop more and more our facilities, both at grassroots and elite club level, to ensure further growth in the game, and [we discussed] any assistance FIFA can give to ensure that those facilities are put in place to grow the game and make it the biggest team sport in Ireland," he explained. "We discussed a range of matters around the power of football. How that power can be used to develop people, making sure kids play football and what that does for their growth and team spirit. One of the other key points we touched on was women's football. We spoke about the effect of the Irish women's team qualifying for the [FIFA] Women's World Cup last year." He concluded: "Women's football has shown phenomenal growth in Ireland. We have some great players, as evidenced by our recent promotion in the Nations League, and we are going to kick on from that, develop further, and get more and more young girls playing football in our country."