Confederation of African Football (Caf) convened an Executive Committee meeting to discuss a new strategy to grow football in Africa at the weekend.
The meeting, hosted by Caf President, Patrice Motsepe, was attended by Fifa President, Gianni Infantino and the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, a well-known football enthusiast.
The Caf Executive Committee meeting, adopted several key decisions, particularly on competitions and growth of football infrastructure on the continent.
One specific decision to attract the attention of many is the proposed Caf-Fifa Pan-African Schools Football Championship.
“The Committee approved the Caf-Pan-African Schools Football Championship as part of the Caf competitions,” reads part of the communique.
The communique further states that Caf president Motsepe, a South African billionaire, informed the Executive Committee of the decision of his foundation, the Motsepe Foundation to donate $10 million to Caf to finance the Caf Pan-African Schools Football Championship.
Speaking to the media shortly after the meeting, Caf General Secretary Véron Mosengo-Omba outlined the detailed plan for the soon to be launched continental schools football tournament.
“This is very important,” Mosengo-Omba said about the Caf Pan-African Schools Football Championship.
He added: “This is a fabulous competition. I imagine it will be the first in the world to have a football schools competition in an entire continent.”
The idea of the Pan-African Schools Football Championship was hatched by the new Caf President Motsepe.
It will first involve a national competition in the initial qualifying stages where four top teams — two for boys and two for girls– will represent their respective countries in the zonal tournament.
From the zonal competition, the two best teams in the boys and girls category will qualify to play in the Pan-African finals.
According to the Mosengo-Omba, the Pan-African Schools Football project has already received the endorsement of Fifa President Gianni Infantino.
“Fifa has supported pilot projects in DR Congo and Benin. We will start with six countries in the pilot project which will help us to plan a bigger and better Pan-African schools championship that will include the entire continent,” Mosengo-Omba said.
Caf plans to have concluded the pilot project by February 2022 and announce the inaugural continental schools’ football championship in March 2022.
Six continental zones as per Caf structure will have two teams each, boys and girls, who will represent regional football blocks at the continental showpiece.
It remains to be seen how the the Federation of East Africa Secondary Schools Championship (FEASSA) will tap into this opportunity to grow an already successful annual sports tournament and expose budding East African footballers to global opportunities.
Meanwhile, the Executive Committee also “took note, on the basis of a documented presentation, of the state of football infrastructure in the continent and took stock of the needs.”
The presentation made by Arsene Wenger, legendary French tactician and former coach of English Premier League side Arsenal, proposed a plan to finance the necessary improvements to the tune of $1 billion, “which will need to be carefully considered.”
Wenger, who currently works for Fifa as the Chief of Global Football Development, tipped Africa football executives on football infrastructure development among others.
Caf executives adopted the idea to gather $1 billion to provide each member association with a football stadium that meets Caf standards.
In April 2021, Caf issued a list of stadiums with some 20 of its 54 member countries banned from using their stadiums to host World Cup qualifiers for failure to meet “minimum requirements”.
The banned stadiums include eight (8) Africa’s top-ranked team Senegal, Burkina Faso, Niger, Central African Republic, Liberia, Malawi, Mali and Namibia.
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The East African nation, Burundi was also included on the list of Caf member countries with substandard football fields.
These countries can only play supposedly home games away from home at their neighbouring countries whose stadium(s) fulfilled the required standards.
Mosengo-Omba said: “This project will help a lot of federations to have their own stadium that meets the standards.”
During the meeting, President of Rwanda Paul Kagame – who also attended the session – urged Caf administration to change their mindset to ensure good governance and development of football on the African continent.
President Kagame said: “We have to adopt a mindset of doing things differently, thinking about the mission we have, the mission that goes beyond us as individuals but serves the purpose of those who love football.”