Barbados is now officially the home of the FIFA Caribbean Development Office. Presidents from 23 regional member associations including Barbados Football Association head Randolph Harris, attended the inauguration ceremony held this morning at Welches, Christ Church.
Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Football Association [CONCACAF] president Victor Montagliani along with Director of FIFA Member Association Development, Veron Mosengo-Omba and former Manchester United and Trinidad and Tobago-born legend Dwight Yorke, joined FIFA’s first female Secretary General Fatma Samoura in cutting the official ribbon.
Shortly after the opening and a brief tour led by the manager in charge of the FIFA development office, Marlon Glean, Samoura said Barbados was specifically chosen because of its central location and infrastructural development. She also thanked the Barbados government for its support.
While taking questions from the media, CONCACAF chief Montagliani said the main goal was putting football first as FIFA sought to develop the game through its Forward Programme.
“No longer do we work in silos of the Caribbean, in silos with Central America, in silos with North America, it is one region and the combination of that philosophy was the launch of our Nations League which starts in September, where everybody will be competing against everybody and at the end of the day, that’s what football is all about. Football is about the ability to unite cultures and unite people, it is not just about a region in itself and the region will compete amongst each other and we will compete internationally,” Montagliani said.
He also praised the region for bringing respectability and transparency back into the game after former CONCACAF president Jeffery Webb was found guilty of corruption two years ago and with former Caribbean Football Union head honcho Jack Warner facing extradition to the United States also on corruption charges.
Montagliani said: “The truth be told that was a long time ago and in football two years is a long time and at the end of the day, it really wasn’t up to FIFA to bring respectability back to region, it was up to the region to bring respectability back to the region. And I think we have done that through CONCACAF and through our member associations, and if you’ve seen the work that is being done by the forty-one-member associations in CONCACAF, starting with your own president here in Barbados, he has been putting football first.”
Meanwhile, Samoura added: “We have learnt lessons from the past and as part of the FIFA region 2.0, we are very serious when it comes to accounting for every single cent that is spent under the forward programme. As a matter of fact, we have expanded to the two hundred and eleven member associations, the center review. Before the new leadership of FIFA there was hardly forty per cent of the member associations that were browsing systematically through a center review. Today a hundred per cent of the member associations receive on a yearly basis, a report from the audit, giving information on how the money is used.
“Our compliance division, which is also something new in FIFA to enhance the compliance law list reaching our entire region and the Caribbean region, is not an exception. Capacity building is also something that we have built within the FIFA forward programme and every single member association has the responsibility to acquire specific training to improve accountability within the administration but also transparency as far as the use of funding is concerned.”
Barbados’ new Minister of the Creative Economy, Culture and Sports, John King, was in attendance and assured Samoura and other FIFA officials that Barbados was committed to providing whatever assistance needed to the development of football both locally and regionally.
“Football has been a passion of this country and I could say the region for a very long time and to have FIFA bring your regional office here is really exciting times for us in Barbados. We look forward to working with you and you have my assurance that whatever is needed, our government will be there to walk with you hand in hand, to improve the standards across the Caribbean,” King said, while adding that he looked forward to the day when small islands like Barbados could challenge for a place in the upcoming World Cup.
BFA president and the man now in charge of CFU, Randolph Harris, was pleased about the new office being located in his backyard and explained that together each member association could accomplish more.
“I believe that if we operate as a united front, we will get more done because we will make things easier for each other. Take for instance, we have the facility at Wildey just completed with the FIFA forward programme, we can sell it and share it with all of our brothers in the Caribbean. It will make their projects being constructed a little bit easier because we went through it already. This office I believe is the beginning of the region going to another standard when it comes to the game. They are here to help us. They have been working with us to make sure that we get all the assistance that we want and it is just beautiful that we have that presence here in Barbados,” he said.