Sunday 01 October 2023, 09:15

FIFA President celebrates milestone in Lithuanian football history

  • Gianni Infantino on visit to mark Baltic nation’s 100th anniversary of FIFA membership

  • FIFA Forward funding key in developing football in Lithuania

  • FIFA President played with FIFA Legends in exhibition game with Lithuanian Legends

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has visited the Lithuanian Football Federation (LFF) to mark the 100th anniversary of the organisation joining FIFA. Founded in 1922, the LFF became part of the global football community a year later, and though it was disbanded after Lithuania was absorbed into the Soviet Union, it rejoined following independence in 1990. “When [LFF President] Edgaras [Stankevičius] told me about this event, it took me about three seconds to agree to come here, because it’s important. He and his federation are doing a really fantastic job, and I’m looking forward to continuing working with him,” said the FIFA President, speaking at the freshly renovated Darius and Girėnas Stadium in Kaunas.

“I was here two years ago, and we were discussing about stadiums, about infrastructure and about upcoming events, and two years ago we had a fantastic [FIFA] Futsal World Cup. Everyone loved it and enjoyed the atmosphere in the stadium and in the city. It was great. All the teams who came here from all over the world, they’re still speaking to me about it. “But of course we were speaking about this lack of stadiums, of infrastructure, and today we are here, celebrating this 100th anniversary of FIFA membership, in a very nice stadium, bringing the FIFA Legends - again from all over the world – bringing some of the very best players we have ever seen to here, to Lithuania, to Kaunas, to enjoy and spend a great moment together. Many things have changed, and the way is upwards definitely.” Mr. Infantino visited Lithuania when the country staged the FIFA Futsal World Cup™️ in 2021, the Baltic nation’s first-ever FIFA competition as hosts.

The FIFA President also noted that the country will stage next year’s 2024 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship finals to reinforce their tournament pedigree, and has projects already underway that will continue driving Lithuanian football forward on all levels. “We have the Talent Development Scheme that we are implementing in cooperation with the Lithuanian Football Federation. So the teamwork of all of us will make football in this beautiful country grow, and grow more, and I’m looking forward to coming back here again and witnessing some great football results, both in men’s and women’s football.”

LFF President Stankevičius, the LFF’s former General Secretary, replaced Tomas Danilevičius in March following his predecessor’s decision to step down after six years in the role. The new President has built on the LFF’s recent work that has given priority to the grassroots game in Lithuania, a policy which has utilised the scope of support provided by the FIFA Forward programme. The first two FIFA Forward phases provided over USD 768,000 to the LFF’s three-year ‘International Youth Development Programme’ through to 2022. The project paired 150 selected coaches from 18 youth academies around the country with leading Belgian club RSC Anderlecht with the aim of bringing its coaching know-how and youth development expertise to Lithuania.

A further application has been made for over USD 1,789,000 in FIFA Forward 3.0 funding to underpin the LFF’s national youth team development project for the next two seasons, which is the next logical step towards fulfilling its ambition of giving Lithuanian football a strong base. The FIFA President rounded off the day by taking part in a game between Lithuanian and FIFA Legends in Kaunas. The match, which is part of a two-day football festival to celebrate the LFF’s centenary, featured former FIFA World Cup™️ winners Dida, Carles Puyol, Aldair, David Trezeguet, Christian Karembeu, Vincent Candela, Fabio Cannavaro, Roque Junior, and Senior Football Advisor Youri Djorkaeff among the FIFA Legends.