Monday 25 March 2024, 12:00

"We're very grateful": Football in the Central African Republic developing with FIFA support

  • Central African Republic played Bhutan and Papua New Guinea in the FIFA Series

  • The FIFA Series is like playing at a “mini World Cup” for the Central African Republic

  • FIFA Forward has helped fund key projects to develop players for the country’s national teams

The Central African Republic's participation in the FIFA Series is the latest example of how FIFA support is helping to develop men's and women's football in the country. The men's national team, known as Les Fauves (The Wild Beasts), took part in the Sri Lanka series where they played Bhutan on 22 March and Papua New Guinea on 25 March.

Godame Tieri of Central African Republic celebrates with Baboula Ghislain

“The development of football in my country is on the right track because we are one of the major beneficiaries of the different FIFA programmes that have been implemented to develop football,” said Celestin Yanindji, President of Central African Republic Football Association (FCF). The FIFA Forward Development Programme has helped to fund the renovation of the FCF’s national technical centre in the capital Bangui to provide modern facilities for future national team players. The new-look centre was inaugurated in January 2024.

"Thanks to FIFA, we now have a working training centre for boys. And thanks to the FIFA Forward programme, we can now hold national tournaments for boys and girls. So, we believe the support FIFA has provided our associations has been the primary resource for developing football in our country," Mr Yanindji said. At the same time, the foundation stone was laid for a second complex which will cater exclusively for women’s football and which will also be built with FIFA Forward support.

"In our society, making sure that girls come to play football creates taboos. Therefore, we need to break these taboos, and it’s through training and support, in schools, for example, that we can scout girls," he said. "In this academy, we bring in girls aged 14 or 15 and develop them. They took part in their first competitions last February, and this experience shows that when you train and compete, the development of women’s football is very fast." He added that the expansion of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup™, which from 2025 will become an annual tournament with 24 teams, would accelerate the development of women’s football.

The men’s national team have yet to play at the FIFA World Cup™ or the CAF Africa Cup of Nations, although they came close to qualifying for this year’s tournament in Côte d´Ivoire and the previous edition in Cameroon. Participation in the FIFA Series was an important step forward.

“(It) allows us to go up against other nations on other continents that we would not have been able to play for a long time. The FIFA Series is an exceptional opportunity that FIFA is offering us, to really feel a part of the global football community," said Mr Yanindji.

He said that both his country and their opponents would benefit from the exchange. “Most people from the Central African Republic didn’t know anything about Bhutan and I’m sure the same is true for people from Bhutan or Papua New Guinea about us. It’s a wonderful adventure and we’re delighted to be involved in it," he said.

In the short term, the games would help prepare for the next round of FIFA World Cup 26™ qualifiers in June. "For us, it’s like taking part in a sort of mini–World Cup. We hope there will be more occasions like this in the future,” he said. "Without FIFA’s support, we certainly would not have been able to play even friendly games at this date. So, we’re very, very grateful for all the programmes implemented by FIFA, which allow our country to truly develop football, both for girls and boys."

Central African Republic training session

Football Development