Football around the world faces an uncertain immediate future as the coronavirus pandemic brings a halt to the sport across the globe, but FIFA president Gianni Infantino has vowed that the game will return when it is safe to do so.
The COSAFA region has been hit as hard as any, with no league action or international fixtures, as well as the postponement of the COSAFA Women’s Under-17 Championship that was due to be staged in Mauritius from this Friday.
While this uncertainty is unsettling for all stakeholders, COSAFA General Secretary Sue Destombes says regional tournaments, of which there were six planned for 2020, will return to the football calendar when circumstances allow.
“As FIFA president Infantino said last week, the first priority right now is to save lives during the coronavirus pandemic and football will have to take a back seat,” Destombes said.
“The health of our people across the Southern African region must be foremost in our minds and we at COSAFA are doing our bit to create awareness around the virus and how to stop its spread as we continue to stay in touch with our stakeholders and football family”.
“We obviously take our lead from governments in the region with regards football activities and for now these are on hold. But rest assured, once we are able to resume with our tournament schedule, we will do so.
“COSAFA’s mandate has not changed, we are here to develop the game in the region, on and off the pitch, and that will continue to be the case after the coronavirus pandemic has subsided.”
Gianni Infantino said FIFA has an emergency relief fund for such eventualities and that the organisation is ready to use it.
“Thanks to the work that we have been doing together in FIFA during the past four years, we are today in a very strong financial situation,” Infantino said. “FIFA enjoys a good reputation on the financial markets. This has helped us consolidate a solid foundation with large reserves.
“But our reserves are not FIFA’s money. It is football’s money. So when football is in need, we must think what we can do to help. It is our responsibility and our duty.”
Infantino assured member associations that they would work together to find solutions to their most pressing needs.
“You have to know that we will be there and we will find solutions together. You will never be alone… (and) the world will know where the money goes and, equally important, why the money goes there.”
Funding from FIFA is usually dependent on member associations meeting certain development criteria, but given that this will be nearly impossible for many this year, Infantino has requested that these are waivered for 2019 and 2020 so that they receive the full allocation.
“I am convinced football will play a key role to bring people back together when it’s safe to play again and be with our friends and families in large groups,” he said. “Let’s prepare for that moment…FIFA is with you in these difficult times, and together, we will win!”