Thursday 07 March 2024, 17:15

Anguilla Football Association plan for the future with FIFA Forward support

  • The Anguilla Football Association inaugurated the island's first artificial turf pitch at its headquarters and Technical Centre

  • The work is part of a larger infrastructure project funded by the FIFA Forward Programme

  • “It’s a historic occasion for us,” said the AFA president

Smiles of happiness, looks of 'mission accomplished', and serious contemplation of future plans were all in evidence on a magical night for the Anguilla Football Association (AFA), which inaugurated the island’s first artificial turf pitch on 29 February. The work forms part of a wider infrastructure project financed by the FIFA Forward Programme that encompasses both the AFA’s technical centre and surrounding area known locally as The Valley. To date, the total contribution amounts to USD 2,264,486.

“Having our first official artificial turf pitch is a major achievement for the Anguilla Football Association. It’s a historic occasion, and it gives us the ability to train more, to get our players ready for competitions and for the Anguilla Football Association to progress its agenda and its mission,” said Girdon Connor, president of the AFA. “The biggest issue we have in Anguilla is a lack of facilities. We were competing for training grounds, competing for training times, and competing to manage competitions. This is an opportunity for us to host international competitions instead of travelling to each one,” added Connor. As well as AFA officials, the Prime Minister of Anguilla, Ellis Webster, attended the official opening, as did the Honourable Minister of Social Development and Education, Dee-Ann Kentish-Rogers, and FIFA’s Director of Member Associations, America, Jair Bertoni, among others.

“I am really, really proud to know that this collaboration with FIFA, the AFA, and the Government of Anguilla has brought this to fruition. I’m happy to be here to see it open. This has so many positive implications, but the self-esteem I’ve seen among our young budding football players, and even among our seasoned players, is really, really something to behold. It means a lot for Anguilla and its people,” Webster said.

Despite the logistical challenges posed by an island with a population of around 14,000 inhabitants, the AFA continues to show its creativeness in organizing national men's, women's and youth football competitions. Moreover, the country is currently preparing to compete in this month’s Concacaf qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup 26™, the first edition that will have 48 participating teams. Such is the sport’s popularity that spectators from various communities across the island regularly visit the Raymond E. Guishard Technical Centre to watch games on weekdays and weekends.

“FIFA is very proud to collaborate on such projects. It’s not only about football, but the communities as well, and what football can bring to a country like Anguilla. We’re happy with the results that we achieved here in six or seven months and with the impact that this work will have on the entire football ecosystem of the island,” said Bertoni.

The pitch will be utilised for club and national team training sessions, youth league matches for both boys and girls, as well as support FIFA’s Talent Development Scheme. In future, through additional support provided by FIFA Forward, the Anguilla Football Association also aims to expand the dormitories on-site, build a gym, changing rooms, and spectator stands. In total there will be four pitches for community usage. “This is only the beginning. There is a vision that we want the government to contribute towards, in partnership with FIFA and AFA,” Bertoni continued. “Via the Forward Programme, FIFA will ensure AFA’s plan becomes a reality, as well as have a ‘multiplier effect’ throughout the Caribbean.”

THE VALLEY, ANGUILLA - FEBRUARY 29: The inauguration of new infrastructure projects at Anguilla Football Association HQ on February 29, 2024 in The Valley, Anguilla. (Photo by Anguilla Football Association)

FIFA is very proud to collaborate on such projects. It’s not only about football in Anguilla, but the communities as well. We’re happy with the results and with the impact that this work will have on the entire football ecosystem of the island.

Jair Bertoni
Regional Director Americas • FIFA Member Associations

As part of the official opening, three informal matches were played on the pitch featuring a combination of invited guests, boys and girls from a grassroots project and a group of fans who took on the Anguilla women’s U-17 team. “The partnership and collaboration between the government, AFA and FIFA has been one of shared vision, the development of sport, and specifically football, for the benefit of young people on this island. I know from personal experience that football plays an important role in building identity,” said Dee-Ann Kentish-Rogers, who recalled how football helped shape her as a person. “This playing field is a critical piece of infrastructure, which will form part of the legacy for young people to access more opportunities and better training, will live on beyond our lifetimes as well as those who have played here before and who are yet to come,” concluded the Minister.

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