Thursday 01 March 2018, 13:00

FIFA Conference for Equality and Inclusion focuses on hope through football 

  • Fourth FIFA Conference for Equality and Inclusion took place at Home of FIFA

  • This year's theme: 'Pass it on—Hope through football'

  • FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura said: "I cannot think of a greater good than pursuing equality"

"Welcome to all of you here in Zurich today for this conference for Equality and Inclusion. It is a great pleasure for me as FIFA President and for the whole FIFA to be here." With these words, FIFA President Gianni Infantino greeted the participants at the FIFA Conference for Equality and Inclusion, with the main theme this year being: ‘Pass it on—Hope through football’.

"Equality and inclusion: two important words for the world – and of course for the world of football," President Infantino continued. "Even if we are just taking care of football and our goal is to organise football, we are also aware of our tasks and responsibility that go beyond football. Football can have much strength and can be a force for good. We at FIFA take it very seriously. We did a few things – we have increased the number of women in our council from one to six. We appointed a lady as Secretary General – for the first time in over 100 years in the history of FIFA."

Many people involved in the fight for a fairer society without discrimination came to Zurich to talk about the role of sport, and in particular, football, as a means for implementing equality and integration, and to find solutions as to how the equality gap between men and women can be closed.

"Football is an incredible tool to bring about change - Mel Young, President and co-founder of the Homeless World Cup)​

Equal opportunities and integration through sport After the opening address from Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General of the International Red Cross Committee, various different athletes spoke about their paths to equality and integration in society and in sport.

"My mother always said that there were three things that united the world: food, music and sport. And she’s right. Sport changed the way that I feel about myself. Sport changed the whole way that the world sees itself," said Loretta Claiborne, Chief Inspiration Officer for the Special Olympics International Board of Directors.

Warshan Hussin, who fled from Iraq with his family at the age of 12 and spent four years in Syria, agreed with this sentiment. "I believe that football has a special power, and one that I’ve experienced myself. It was never easy going from one country to another, but football was always key to my happiness. I’ve seen how many people it brings together. Regardless of where they are from, who they are, how old they are or the colour of their skin, it’s all about the passion that they have for the game. What I truly hope for future generations of refugees being housed all around the world is that they get involved in something like Soccer Without Borders. It could change their lives – it certainly changed mine."

Sport as a means to advance​ After three sessions of the conference it was time for the main discussion with Frederic Kanoute, the French-born former Mali international who set up the Kanoute Foundation in conjunction with UNICEF, and Ugandan-born professional women’s player Jean Sseninde.

"I believe that football is more than just a game. It is a way for all of us to express ourselves," said Sseninde, who plays for Crystal Palace and is a member of the Common Goal Initiative, whereby professional footballers and coachers pledge to give at least one per cent of their salaries to charity. "Anything that changes the world begins with us as individuals. Football has a unique power, because it’s the game that we all love. Football has a unique ability to bring us all together. And together we can ensure that no single girl, no single person in the world has any restrictions to overcome. Together we can change the world."

To conclude the conference, which also looked at future developments, FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura addressed the participants.

"For 21 years I acted on behalf of the UN. My job was to support peace and development, and to foster gender equality, especially in Africa. For almost two years I have been acting on behalf of FIFA where we promote inclusion, fairness and diversity in football and beyond.

"I know the importance of opening the Home of FIFA to people like you, and I will reiterate the last sentence of Kanoute: FIFA is for everyone, so the Home Of FIFA is your house.

"Football alone cannot solve all of the problems in the world, it would be arrogant for FIFA to think otherwise. But on the other hand, you cannot simply ignore the power of a sport that sparks the passion of so many millions of people around the globe, people of all backgrounds, ethnicities and beliefs. It would be irresponsible to overlook this power. It is only human for us to consider ways of putting football at the service of a greater good. And I cannot think of a greater good than pursuing equality, than striving for people to be properly valued regardless of where they come from, their sexual orientation or the colour of their skin."

Watch video from the entire conference, split up by the morning and afternoon sessions.