Former Swiss international midfielder Fernandes will take up the new role on 1 August 2022, with responsibility for overseeing services to strengthen the development of the African member associations through the Forward Programme. The 35-year-old with Cabo Verdean roots grew up in Switzerland and developed his footballing skills at FC Sion, where he currently holds the position of vice-president.
“We are delighted to have Gelson joining the FIFA team,” said FIFA President Gianni Infantino. “Gelson had a fantastic career as a footballer, and the experience he gained will be important to carry out his tasks to the best of his ability. I have no doubt that Gelson will do some excellent work for us, and we welcome him to our team.”
During his career, Fernandes played for FC Sion, Manchester City, AS Saint-Étienne, Chievo, Leicester City, Udinese, Sporting CP, SC Freiburg, Stade Rennes and Eintracht Frankfurt. He also won 67 caps for Switzerland and scored twice, memorably scoring the only goal of the game as Switzerland overcame eventual world champions Spain 1-0 at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ in South Africa.
“It’s a big honour and I’m very proud to join FIFA,” said Fernandes. “I am an African and if you get an offer like this, you must do it because it is a way of giving something back to Africa as an African. I see it as my obligation to work for Africa and its football. This mission that I will start in August includes all aspects around my roots and this continent, showing my gratitude and support and giving my all for African football,” he said.
The 35-year-old is looking forward to his new task and is under no illusions about the work that lies ahead of him. “Together with the member associations, we will look for solutions to constantly improve the situation. Everybody has to be involved. This continent has incredible potential. I come from this continent; I am one of the many stories of this continent. Football can change the lives of so many people. Football can do so much, it has a lot of power. I will give everything with all my heart. It’s a great challenge and one that I am proud to accept.”