Planning is underway to develop football in nations at the new frontier of this, the world’s most popular game. The sporting, community and commercial potential of the game are now being developed in South and West Asia.
Presidents of football federations in South and West Asia met in Jeddah Thursday with a senior FIFA official attending as an observer to start the formal process of establishing a new body for football to be known as the South West Asian Football Federation (SWAFF).
The nations represented at the meeting included Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Maldives, Yemen, Oman, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates.
The new organisation has been designed to improve the quality of football for people of all ages, genders and levels of ability in the region, which includes some of the world’s biggest frontier football nations such as India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, and marks the next stage in the evolution of world football.
“The nations of South and West Asia want to work with each other to grow football in the region, and to compete on a more equal playing field at future World Cup competitions and international tournaments,” Dr. Adel Ezzat, President and Chairman of Saudi Arabian Football Federation, said after the meeting.
Saudi Arabia is committed to help grow and resource football in the new region, Dr. Ezzat said.
The historic meeting heralds the dawn of a new era to build football’s competitiveness and capacity in the sports-oriented countries of South and West Asia.
“The initiative of SWAFF is a milestone in the development of football in Pakistan and other nations. There is no doubt it is a new frontier of football…,” said Makhdoom Faisal Hayat, president of the Pakistan Football Federation.
Saudi Arabia is the only nation in the region to reach the Finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and is scheduled to play Russia in the opening game of world football’s showcase event.
“We want to see the region become a presence in world football,” Dr Ezzat said.
The new body plans to work with partners, governments, federations and other interested parties in the region to establish new football facilities, academies, and competitions, which will be developed in harmony and in collaboration with FIFA, AFC, and Football Federations within South and West Asia, and within existing football structures, schedules and commitments.
“When we spoke about governance, FIFA is really supporting and encouraging such initiatives, Gianni (Fifa President Gianni Infantino), by himself also welcomed the initiative,” said Abdulla Aljunaibi, vice-president of the UAE football federation.
Funds from new football events and commercial programs will be reinvested into football development to help create a new football sector and culture in member nations that is self-sufficient and fully transparent.