Friday 12 October 2018, 10:01

A new temple of football on the Mongolian plains

  • A new artificial pitch unveiled in Mongolia

  • Will prevent national teams needing to travel abroad to train

  • Installation funded by USD 715,520 investment by the FIFA Forward Programme

For the last few days, among the steppes of the Tuv province, a few kilometres away from Mongolia's capital Ulaanbaatar, a brand new artificial football pitch has been attracting the interest of thousands of the citizens from the surrounding areas.

With hundreds of boys and girls proudly wearing their national shirts and anxious to set foot on the inviting surface, to let off their first shots towards the untouched goalposts, the handover of another FIFA Forward project took place last week.

It was only right that, after the official opening ceremony, the first action to take place would be contested by the best country has to offer, with a range of Mongolian national teams getting the honour of the playing the first games.

The women’s senior side kicked off in intense fashion against their U-19 counterparts, before the men's national team faced their forebears on a Mongolian legends side to celebrate the opening. This unique combination of different age categories across the day created a perfect reflection of how Living Football involves everyone no matter the age, the place or the surroundings.

To fulfill its promise of bringing football to all, FIFA - with USD 715,520 investment - supported the Mongolian Football Federation (MFF) by installing a new artificial pitch in a province that's thirsty for sports infrastructure.

In this vast country with only three million inhabitants, many of which nomads who love their traditional wrestling, football pitches like the one in Tuv create numerous opportunities for young boys and girls to engage in football and to enable the MFF to enrich its youth teams with more talented and properly trained girls and boys. The new facility is there to help realise the dreams of all the country's football fans.

After the games had concluded, one of the young players from the men's national team reflected: "With this artificial pitch, we will improve our technique and the quality of our game. I am sure more and more would like to join us now".

The beginning of something new For the youth of the area, football is not only fun but it’s also a way, in a country characterised by its vast desert-like plains, to develop connections with members of different communities. In the province of Tuv, which houses the country's main city of Ulaanbaatar and where many inhabitants are passionate football fans, the news about the installation of the synthetic pitch circulated through word of mouth, encouraging many inhabitants, who travelled from far and wide, to visit the new facility. “We are excited about the new turf; most Mongolians feel passionate about football and want to learn how to play," noted a visitor from a neighbouring village. "Having access to this kind of advanced and sustainable technology brings hope to our youth. It helps them to socialise and build strong social ties with other communities. It is certainly a way to empower them, too."

The President of the Mongolian Football Federation, Ganbataar Amgalanbaatar, also seized the opportunity to share his own excitement about the implementation of the project. “Today is a wonderful day, because we are opening the first official national team training centre thanks to our cooperation with FIFA through the FIFA Forward programme," he said.

"In the past, our national teams have been training abroad in Japan and Malaysia. From now on, our teams will be able to train on their own training ground. This is only a beginning, in the near future, we hope we can build a technical centre with accommodation and offices for our staff. Today we didn't only inaugurate a pitch, we have made a giant first step, and one day we hope this facility will become a part of a big national training complex.” He then concluded his speech with the Mongolian Federation's motto: “One team and one goal”.

As from last week, the Mongolian steppes, once roamed by the troops of the legendary Genghis Khan, are the grounds where football will now grow with steady steps.