Thursday 10 January 2019, 07:29

FIFA President honoured during Togo visit

Following an earlier visit to Mauritania, FIFA President Gianni Infantino, CAF Vice President Constant Omari, FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura, FIFA Director of Member Associations and Development for CAF and the Caribbean Region Véron Mosengo-Omba, Development Manager at the FIFA Regional Office for West and Central Africa El Hadj Wack Diop and members of the FIFA administration yesterday travelled to the Togolese Republic.

Upon landing at Lomé-Tokoin International Airport, Infantino was bestowed with a traditional honour and rank on behalf of President Faure Gnassingbé and presented with traditional Togolese robes to mark the occasion.

Speaking about his elevation to this rank, the FIFA President said: “I am hugely humbled to be considered worthy of being a traditional authority of Togo. The warmth, passion and joie de vivre of the Togolese people is contagious and I am immensely honoured that President Gnassingbé has bestowed this prestigious rank upon me.”

The FIFA delegation was then escorted by Minister of Sport Guy Madjé Lorenzo and Togolese Football Association (FTF) President Colonel Guy Kossi Akpovy to the Presidential Palace of Togo for a meeting with President Gnassingbé, a passionate football fan. Discussions then took place on the educational aspects of football and the people of Togo’s love of the game.

FIFA’s Football for Schools Programme, which will provide a platform to educate children through football, was also a key focus of the dialogue and Infantino briefed President Gnassingbé on FIFA’s plans to distribute nine million footballs to schools in the territories of the 211 member associations around the world. In addition, an online platform will be created to inform teachers on how best to incorporate football into education.

During the meeting, President Gnassingbé expressed his gratitude to Infantino for having kept his electoral campaign promise of increasing the number of African teams that will participate in the 2026 FIFA World Cup™. He also expressed his delight that Infantino had honoured Africa by appointing a secretary general from the continent. The head of state reinforced his commitment to continue supporting football across the country via funds provided to the FTF.

A media session followed the meeting with President Gnassingbé, in which Infantino emphasised the importance of FIFA’s continued support to the FTF in order to promote and grow football in the region for men and women. He said: “I’m very positive about the great impact that the allocation of dedicated funds through the FIFA Forward Programme will have on women’s football in Togo. I’m looking forward to seeing how women’s football will expand and flourish here and provide great opportunities to girls and women to get involved in the game both on and off the pitch.”

The next meeting scheduled for the FIFA delegation was with various Togolese football stakeholders, including the FTF and its President Kossi Akpovy, its Executive Committee, Claude Le Roy—the coach of the Togolese national team—as well as representatives from various clubs and leagues. The main topics discussed were the need to continue developing football in Togo as well as the many opportunities and challenges the game faces in the country. The FIFA President stressed to those present his satisfaction on the positive direction in which the FTF was moving under the leadership of President Akpovy and the need to join forces with FIFA to sustain these efforts.

The delegation was then invited to an official dinner hosted by outgoing Togolese Prime Minister Komi Sélom Klassou that featured local singers and traditional Bassar dancers.