With the Concacaf Gold Cup Group Stage starting on Saturday, President Infantino took the opportunity to celebrate the vibrant return of football after the interruptions occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic. The 41 member associations of Concacaf were meeting for the first time since 2019 as a result, a fitting way to celebrate the confederation’s 60th anniversary.
“It’s good to be together, it’s good to be back in a meeting and it’s good to be united,” Mr Infantino told delegates in Miami. “It was fantastic to see the football back yesterday [Concacaf Gold Cup Preliminary Round matches], to see the passion of the public in the venue and to feel the hearts beating. This is symbolic of the new Concacaf that puts football and unity before anything else. I would like to commend Vittorio [Montagliani] and all of you: thanks to you, the face of this confederation has changed forever.”
COVID-19 related complications during those Preliminary Round matches have provided a timely reminder that #HealthComesFirst when playing football and organising events.
“Health is a top priority in everything we do,” Mr Infantino added. “When we ask our boys and girls to go to the pitch, we need to realise that the world is not what it was, and we need to put health first. At FIFA, we have tried to help you with the COVID-19 Relief Fund and I would like to thank you for all that you have been able to do to keep football alive in your respective countries with that help.”
The onset of the pandemic has further reinforced the need for football to utilise its considerable platform to be a driver of social change. Referring to the recent launch of a confederation anti-discrimination campaign, the FIFA President said:
“I have to commend Concacaf for its fight against discrimination because ‘What is wrong is wrong’. And it is wrong to insult players, particularly goalkeepers in certain situations. What kind of message, what kind of education do we give to our children? How do we prepare them for our future? How do we explain to them that football is about joy if we are insulting players when they play for their team, the country, their fans and for their people? We have to promote positive messages because what is right is right too: and it is right to protect our children from abuse and to fight for them to play football in a safe and healthy environment.”
The importance of collaboration with political institutions and authorities for a safer football was emphasised and that spirit of unity was also called upon in relation to stakeholder input to an analysis of a new and optimised match calendar, including a reform of youth tournaments.
“The fact that football stopped virtually everywhere in the world and came back with new formats, new ideas and new ways of playing, is maybe accelerating a series of reforms that we have to do anyway,” he added.
“You and your colleagues at the FIFA Congress voted with an overwhelming majority to tell us to study what we can do to make football better: men’s and women’s, boy’s and girl’s and greater investment in youth football. How can we do that? Maybe by having youth tournaments every year because only if you compete against the best, can you improve.
“We have been asked by the vast majority of you for the possibility of organising a World Cup every two years. We are going to study that. You have the Gold Cup already every two years and you can see, especially with the reforms that have taken place recently, what a positive impact that can have. But we need your guidance and your input.”
The FIFA President wished participating teams the best as they prepared to represent Concacaf in the Olympic Tournaments as well as the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup and FIFA Futsal World Cup. He also extended a message of condolence to the people of Haiti following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, who met Mr Infantino in 2017.
Originally published by FIFA.