Many of the delegates present for the week in South Africa had played a part in the work done 12 years earlier, when the presidents of FIFA and CAF honoured the Congress with their presence.
“What a long way we’ve come since 2009”, declared a delighted Desmond Maringwa, President of the Footballers Union of Zimbabwe (FUZ) and newly elected to the FIFPRO Africa Board. “Back then the division had only three member countries, the three founders: South Africa, Cameroon and Egypt. There were several countries, Zimbabwe among them, who were hoping to come and swell the ranks of FIFPRO Africa. Convinced of the need to combine all the lifeblood of the continent to act for the players’ benefit, we wanted to give more meaning to our demands and more weight to our actions, including at national level.”
This 15th Congress, an elective assembly, which demonstrated the willingness of FIFPRO’s African members to embrace diversity and inclusion, welcomed the FIFPRO General Secretary, Jonas Baer-Hoffmann for the first time:
“It was fantastic to finally meet face to face again with our members from the African continent. The amount of work and dedication that went into protecting the players in this utmost challenge during the Covid-19 pandemic both in terms of health and economic conditions was inspiring. Moreover, the discussions on the next strategic developments for our unions in Africa were incredibly useful.”
“I also want to thank the unions for their leadership and consideration in electing very capable people to our governance structures. From Geremie Njitap to Khadija Timera and Kgosana Masaseng, we are very excited to work together in the next few years and bring the voice of the African players to the next level.”
Baer-Hoffmann also expressed particular praise for the actions taken in Gabon and the positive results achieved by player union ANFPG, which has succeeded, after fighting desperately for several years, in winning concessions from the federation and the clubs. As Remy Ébanega, president of the ANFPG, said: “The result is that more than 700 players will finally receive their salary arrears. The support of FIFPRO and Division Africa has been paramount.”
FIFPRO Africa President Geremie Njitap added: “It’s one example among others, and all of them testify to the vitality of the members of FIFPRO Africa, the major role we play and the recognition that is ours today, at both continental and national level, making us indispensable participants and skilled partners who, beyond the sometimes necessary demands and the battles we have to fight, are determined to build a fairer kind of football with all the stakeholders.”
“That’s why our family arouses such keen interest, and why associations are being created here and there across the continent and are knocking at our door.”
“But you don’t become a member of FIFPRO Africa just because you want to. And even if it is essential for us in the future to make efforts to increase the number of our national representations, it would be dangerous and counterproductive to pursue a policy oriented towards quantity, when we have been working for several years to achieve quality.”
Ten African unions are currently waiting to get on board, like the Angolan player association ANFA, who were present at a FIFPRO Africa meeting for the first time: “The demand is high”, acknowledges Stéphane Burchkalter, General Secretary of FIFPRO Africa.
Next to that, it is our intention to adopt a new governance model. Our Finance and Professionalisation Committee has been operating since 2017 and the objectives we have set for the next four years, if attained, will enable all our members to turn a new corner.”
Having listened with particular care to the excellent contributions from Sarah Gregorius, Director, Global Policy and Strategic Relations Women’s Football at FIFPRO, and with Raul Chipenda, CAF Director of Development via video conference, the development of relations between FIFPRO Africa and CAF on the basis of the agreement signed in October 2018 was also discussed in great detail.
As well as being rich in its content, this Congress also enabled delegates to delve into the recent history of South Africa and to honour the memory of Nelson Mandela and all those who fought against apartheid.
The last word goes to Baer-Hoffmann: “Johannesburg is a place of remarkable importance for human rights not just in South Africa but the entire world. So it was a humbling and fitting venue for this important assembly.”