Saturday 27 April 2019, 09:30

Tajikistan ready for breakthrough with the help of FIFA Forward

  • Tajikistan Football Federation (TFF) set to continue their academy project

  • TFF have made several positive steps forward in recent years

  • Six projects were implemented with the help of the FIFA Forward Programme

The Tajikistan Football Federation will continue with their TFF Academy project, with the funds secured via the FIFA Forward 2.0 programme. The TFF project has already helped the Tajikistan U-17 national team reach the final of the 2018 AFC U-16 Championship and secure qualification for the FIFA U-17 World Cup just for the second time in their history.

From 16-19 April the academy, as well as other TFF facilities, was visited by FIFA Regional Office Development Manager Essam Al-Suhibani and Project Co-ordinator Andrei Vashkevich to discuss further steps for football development in the country.

The TFF Academy, which started to operate in June 2016, focuses on the training and education of talented youth players from all regions of the country. Currently three age groups U-15, U-16 and U-17 live and train in the academy. The purpose of this project is to create a clear pathway for player development, providing exceptionally-talented youth with a high-quality training and competition process, based on the modern international methodology of the education of football players.

Recently the number of pupils at the academy rose up to 70, split between the three age groups, living and training in a facility some 20 kilometres away from Dushanbe. Approximately ten more children are there almost every week for trials. 40 employees including coaches and school teachers provide everything that is needed for pupils in training and day-to-day life as well as secondary education.

Umedjon Umarov, Director of the TFF Academy, said: "The main objectives of the project are to produce players of high quality, to develop and improve the technical abilities of the youngsters and to prepare individual players for the national teams of Tajikistan. We focus on training and education of the talented youth players from all regions of the country. We try to scout the best youngsters during local competitions and the most gifted are invited to the academy. FIFA Forward provides crucial support for our academy and we hope we will be able to launch many great careers for our youngsters."

The academy project is just one of the wide range of activities for youth development undertaken by the TFF recently. The first ever nationwide U-15 and U-17 competitions which are currently run in home-and-away format serve as another example. Created using FIFA Forward Programme funding, these competitions enable children to not only have a stable fixture list and competitive games, but also give a chance to many of them to travel around the country. Before these competitions, youth teams in Tajikistan had few chances to play against each other. with opportunities to travel in the mountainous country very limited due to lack of financing.

All transportation and refereeing costs for these competitions were covered by the FIFA Forward Programme, which enabled some schools to travel hundreds of kilometres - unbearably expensive for football school budgets. But with the help of FIFA Forward, the league became possible.

The winners of the tournament receive a trophy at a special ceremony at the national stadium, a unique moment for both themselves and their parents. The league helped to market football all over the country. Eight cities were represented in both leagues (Dushanbe, Istaravshan, Qurghonteppa, Jaloliddini Balkshi, Vahdat, Farkhor, Khujand).

Davlatmand Islomov, TFF General Secretary, said: "More than 3300 young players participated in the 2018 edition of the TFF Youth League, and even more are expected to take part in the 2019 season which started on 1 March with regional qualifiers. TFF strives to facilitate every child to start playing football as early is possible. This is done via regular youth festivals for both boys and girls and other grassroots activities. Over 17,000 boys and girls participated in our nationwide grassroots project Football Comes to You for children aged 6-12. We worked hard on grassroots and youth football in recent years. FIFA Forward 1.0 helped us to implement a wide range of projects like TFF Academy, Equipment for TFF OB Van, Futsal in Schools, Coaching Education, Tajikistan Youth Football League Development, League Development and national top League Development. Infrastructure will be the most important aspect in the new FIFA Forward 2.0 cycle".

One of the ultimate goals is get the best players to feature in the Tajikistan Football League, which has also benefited from the FIFA Forward Programme in recent years. A tailor-made project helped clubs with equipment including kits and goals, buses, renovating dressing-rooms and assisting with training camps. This contributed to the overall image of the tournament as well as increased competition for promotion to the top flight among second division teams.

Alisher Urunov, TFF vice president and Tajikistan Football League general director, said: "Thanks to the FIFA Forward Programme, both TFF and the Tajikistan Football League made great progress in many aspects including match organisation, infrastructure and attractiveness for supporters. We can see how with the help of FIFA, Tajik football is constantly changing for the best. Our league became much more competitive. All clubs meet licensing criteria. Previously we could have cases when matches were cancelled just because clubs failed to find transportation. Thanks to constant support from FIFA, this is not the case now. All teams now have good equipment, including new goals, dressing rooms were refurbished in all top flight grounds. We hope that there will be even more improvements in the coming years and FIFA Forward is a cornerstone for that. We have a lot of talented youth, and football is the No1 sport in Tajikistan."

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