Benin's schools football project seeks to create stars

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A Beninese schoolboy training as a match official   -  

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Benin

A pilot project between FIFA, the Beninese Football Association (FEBEFOOT), the Benin Ministry of Sport is taking place in Grand Popo between July 23-30, 2021 with youth developement at it's core.

Both boys' and girls' Under-16 teams from schools across the country have competed for a place at the finals in Grand Popo, where 12 boys and 12 girls teams will be accommodated in the same city.

The importance of schools' football was emphasized by FIFA President Gianni infantino on a visit to Benin in February 2021, with schools football progress topping the agenda in the country.

FIFA's Chief of Member Associations, Kenny Jean-Marie, underlined the organisa tion's commitment to developing a truly global game: "To us, Benin is as important as the United States; you need to know that. Every member association is important, every country is important, all young people are important. Since FIFA's vision is to make football truly global, we need to be everywhere. Beyond that, in Africa we sometimes have a problem in that the networks of club associations are not focused on what you might call "grassroots," or amateur, football, mass-participation football. So initiatives like this one, with the support of the Beninese government and of President (of Benin) (Patrice) Talon, are important initiatives, because they allow us to reach young people while they are still in school, and together with the schools we can organise small championships that might allow us, one day, to discover future talents who will be part of national teams in a more elite football setting."

The event follows the signing of an agreement that had been made with FIFA in 2020, proving the important link between football, development and society - one which led FIFA to backing Benin's school football championship.

"My goal is to be a FIFA referee and be recognised all over the world," said Salifou Awali, who is training as an umpire.

AP

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