Saturday 06 May 2023, 21:15

FIFA President praises football development projects in Uzbekistan

  • Gianni Infantino sits down with President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in Tashkent

  • Says new football academy will be “a pride for Asia” and “an example for the entire world”

  • Also meets Uzbekistan Football Association (UFA) head Abdulsalom Azizov

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has held discussions with the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev on his first-ever visit to the central Asian nation, applauded the country’s involvement in the FIFA Forward and Football For Schools programme, before attending a top-flight game in Tashkent.

The FIFA President met President Mirziyoyev in the Uzbek capital where only last month FIFA’s Football for Schools programme was launched, making Uzbekistan the first central Asian country to take part in the initiative.

“The reason why we launched this programme here,” Mr. Infantino said “is because, of course, Uzbekistan is an important country, it’s a big country with a population of 37 million people. It’s a country that loves football and the Football for Schools programme is a programme whereby children in schools – girls and boys [...] learn not necessarily, or not only, how to play football, but through Football for Schools, they learn values, the values of football: respect, tolerance, team spirit. These values are important to build a young country with a great history, like Uzbekistan.”

Uzbek football is on the rise. After winning the AFC U-20 Asian Cup for the first time, the country’s U-20 team participate in this month’s FIFA U-20 World Cup™ as the reigning Asian champions. The FIFA President addressed the players as they get ready to kick off the tournament against hosts Argentina on 20 May.

Uzbekistan Football Association (UFA) President Abdulsalom Azizov has helped ensure the organisation works hand-in-hand with FIFA to be the driving force behind the game’s growth in the country, and he too had talks with Mr. Infantino at UFA headquarters and the ‘Dustlik’ national team training facility.

“FIFA are investing with the FIFA Forward programme together with the football authorities here in Uzbekistan”, Mr. Infantino explained. “The football academy here in Tashkent will become the main place for Uzbekistan, for the whole country, where the best talent of the country will come at a very young age. They will be able to live here, to train here, to work and to develop in the very best conditions. It will be a state-of-the-art centre. It will be a pride for Uzbekistan, it will be a pride for central Asia, for Asia. It will also be an example for the entire world.”

Mr. Infantino rounded off the day by taking part in a match between UFA and FIFA select teams at the training centre of FC Bunyodkor, and later attending the Uzbek top-flight match between Bunyodkor and FC Olimpik.