Wednesday 27 March 2024, 08:30

FIFA Forward and FIFA Series™ propel Andorra to new heights

  • Principality’s football infrastructure given a vital leg-up by development programme

  • Andorran Football Association’s General Secretary: “Around 20-25% of our budget comes from FIFA Forward”

  • FIFA Series 2024™ enabled the Tricolors to pit their wits against national teams from other confederations

As countries go, Andorra is not exactly what you might call run-of-the-mill. Spanning a tiny area and nestled amongst the Pyrenees, the landlocked country’s size and topography pose a serious handicap to any efforts to extend and develop.

These challenges inevitably have an impact on the nation’s football ecosystem and the work of the Andorran Football Association (FAF). However, a healthy dose of imaginative thinking and no shortage of endeavour have ensured that strides are being taken – both on and off the pitch – that seemed inconceivable a short few years ago. Needless to say, world football’s governing body has had a big hand in Andorra’s progress, making an invaluable contribution through the FIFA Forward Programme and the FIFA Series™, the pilot phase of which recently concluded.

As David Rodrigo, the General Secretary at the Andorran FA, told FIFA Inside, “The Forward Programme has been vital for us, particularly in terms of building infrastructure, which is currently one of our biggest shortcomings. There are some 120 teams across the country, from youth to senior level, and we’re only a very small nation.

At the FAF, we have just five football pitches, and when it comes to training, it’s a real struggle to fit all the teams in,” he added.

However, these obstacles have done little to dampen the FAF’s desire to make strides and oversee infrastructural improvements. “We’re currently building a new football pitch, which will host our men’s senior national-team matches. To date, the Forward Programme has contributed USD 3.5 million across its first three cycles, and we’ll invest all of the remaining USD 2 million on the pitch.”

The importance of the support that the FAF receives from FIFA cannot be overstated. “It’s crucial for us, with around 20-25% of our budget coming from the FIFA Forward Programme,” underlined the Andorran FA executive, who was keen to draw attention to the association’s La Massana complex, which was officially inaugurated on 20 September 2023 and scooped the runners-up spot in the inaugural FIFA Forward Awards held in June 2023.

“The fact that the La Massana project claimed second prize was really significant for us because it proves that, despite being a small association, if you go about things in the right way, it’s still possible to win such awards.”

Sporting a proud smile, Rodrigo added: “It’s satisfying that an FA as small as ours is able to go toe to toe with the big associations, because we often struggle to compete with them on the pitch.”

The development of the youth game and the principality’s club sides are key objectives for the FAF, with La Massana playing an instrumental role on both fronts.

“It’s our national technical centre, and it has enabled our national-team players to double their number of training hours. They spend the morning with us, with our performance department, before heading off to join up with their club sides in the afternoons/evenings. This arrangement has been central to the improvement we’ve seen in our performances at national-team level.”

In addition, the Andorrans have recently taken a step forward in their development as a national team by competing in the FIFA Series 2024 Algeria™, which is providing Koldo Álvarez’s charges with the opportunity to test themselves against opposition from other confederations.

“It’s key for us, because without the FIFA Series, we’d have never got the chance to come up against South Africa or Bolivia. It’s an opportunity for us to discover other cultures and playing styles. It’s a really enriching experience for us small nations,” commented Rodrigo, who stressed just how important it is that the country’s players, teams and supporters are given exposure to more meaningful competitive matches.

Not only does the newly launched intercontinental tournament allow the Andorran FA to tread uncharted territory, but it also provides the Tricolors with a useful learning experience, with players and the coaching staff given access to more significant matches.

“It’s important for the players’ development, as it gives them a taste of playing styles from other continents. We’re used to facing European national teams, but this is a totally different competitive experience. We’re delighted, and our coaching staff are particularly pleased because they’d been asking us to arrange matches against national teams from other continents, but our budget was often a stumbling block,” stated Rodrigo before signing off with words of hope for the future of the FIFA Series.

“I’d like to see it become a regular fixture in the coming years. We’d certainly love to take part. The FIFA Series has given us the chance to face national teams from other confederations.”

Football Development