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If football wants to make progress in Africa, then professionalism and players’ needs must be dealt with seriously. That’s what FIFPro Africa recently told representatives of Africa’s governing body CAF during a special meeting in Cairo.

FIFPro Africa attended a CAF Clubs Licensing System seminar in Cairo, which was also attended by new CAF president Ahmad Ahmad, albeit briefly, and FIFA representatives.

FIFPro Africa’s secretary general Stéphane Burchkalter spoke directly to CAF instructors and used the opportunity to present his recommendations.

“We are delighted that CAF has welcomed us into the fold and has recognised that, by defending players’ interests, we are doing African football as a whole a great service,” said Burchkalter. “But the sport can only progress on the continent if we take players’ needs seriously and if we give professionalism its rightful place.”

“Players need the security that comes with an employment contract, regular pay, insurance, high-quality training facilities and education. Only then will they be able to think solely about their job – playing football out on the pitch.”

“By focusing on what they do best, players will become better as a result. Everyone will benefit – clubs, federations, CAF and players alike.”

FIFPro Caf3 640

FIFPro Africa has been pushing this message for almost 10 years now. Slowly but surely, the message is getting through.

FIFPro Africa always maintained a positive, cordial relationship with former CAF president Issa Hayatou, but the election of new president Ahmad Ahmad has been something of a game-changer, bringing hope of a brighter future for players and representatives alike.

“In the future, we want to see official minimum standards brought in across the continent. That is one of our pledges to African footballers,” Burchkalter continued. “More importantly, we want to make sure these standards are applied. So federations – and CAF, too – will need to introduce and enforce these standards, and impose sanctions on those who fail to toe the line. And in doing so, they will be laying the foundations for fair, harmonious development of our sport in Africa.”

“That is why FIFPro and Division Africa, like FIFA and CAF, are fully behind the Clubs Licensing System – both locally and continent-wide – for all clubs playing in CAF’s major competitions. We firmly believe that top clubs have a duty to lead by example and show their peers how things should be done – at all levels of the game.”

“It was an important opportunity to talk to CAF instructors, who pass on messages from the sport’s governing bodies to national federations and clubs,” added Stéphane Saint-Raymond, FIFPro Africa communications director. “We wanted to make it clear that raising standards and professionalism in football is not just about infrastructure, administration or tactics. It is also – and more importantly – about the quality of players and their well-being, both on and off the pitch.”

“In Cairo, FIFPro Africa hammered home the same, unequivocal message: without strict rules to protect players, without written contracts and without fixed, regular pay, we cannot raise the standards of football here in Africa. And moreover, we cannot attract the commercial partners we need to secure the funding we all want to see, well into the future.”

“We must build solid foundations so that we can develop and implement ambitious rules that protect Africa’s footballers,” added Burchkalter in his concluding remarks. “We are pleased that CAF has resolved to do more on this front, working more regularly and professionally with partners from across the sport – including FIFPro Division Africa. We are ready to work with the confederation to meet this challenge – just as we do with individual federations who seek to put players’ interests at the fore.”