A week in the life of a development officer
It is the second Monday in August 2002. In a few hours I shall be boarding the plane for Lima, Peru. My colleagues, the other Goal development officers around he globe, are also probably checking their tickets and passports; perhaps they are already in the air or still on the ground, under the sun or in the rain. The hopes of millions of people hoping to receive financial support for their projects are travelling with us.
It is my first visit to the projects planned for the towns of Piura in the north and Tacna in the south of Peru.
This Andean country is one of five South American countries benefiting from Goal – an unequivocal demonstration that the vision described by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter in his 1998 electoral campaign was a pressing need and not a future notion.
Before embarking on the trip to the airport, the week begins - like every day - with a glance at reports in South American newspapers. Thanks to the Internet, I can look at news on pages from today’s and last weekend’s papers. This keeps me up to date on what is happening in the football scene and on news in each country. It gives me information essential to communicating well with my hosts.
Once I have caught up on the day’s stories, I check the e-mails I have received from Lima and Zurich and compare them with the information I already have, update points on my computer that have been pending since my last visit, pack everything together and then take off with my faithful suitcase.
Carlos Franco, an architect and manager of Goal in Peru, is there to meet me at Lima airport. He has two tickets for Piura. We will be travelling to the biggest town in the north of the country, one hour away by plane.
Here and in Tacna, the Peruvian football association is creating a generous infrastructure for its footballers. Some years ago, it built the Videna complex in Lima, which houses the association’s administrative offices as well as a training centre for all of the national teams (with fields, bedrooms, gymnasium, common rooms etc.) In July 2001, it opened a sports centre in Chincha – a two-hour drive away from Lima – equipped with two pitches, a gymnasium and guest rooms. The aim is, with the help of Goal, to create an environment conducive to developing players’ potential in far-flung areas of the country too. The reasons for this trip are to make sure that the plans approved from the scale model at the Goal Bureau meeting in November 2001 are being carried out properly. We reach there at dusk. We are met by local football officials and engineers from the building company and arrange the time for the inspection. “Eight o’clock in the morning.” They all smile. They know it is “FIFA time” and that we shall be there on the dot.
At night, we undertake an unofficial visit to see progress on the work and to satisfy our curiosity. It is after ten at night and the builders are toiling away on their last legs, welding the metal frame in the roof of the gymnasium.
The following day, I wake up to cloudy skies but the air is tropical. It is hot and humid - but there is a pleasant surprise in store. What, only some months ago, was a wasteland with an uncertain future has now taken on shape and size. The ground has been flattened. It is clean, expectant, awaiting the seed that will splash everything green. Where there was a void, now there are three buildings. At the entrance, the association’s future offices; between the two fields, the dressing-rooms and gymnasium; at the back, the water tank.
A pleasant surprise
The builders stop work for a while as we pass by. Amidst the noise of hammers, saws and cement mixers, I learn that the association of Piura will be moving from the old headquarters without rest rooms to new ones with five offices, a meeting room, reception and sanitary facilities.
There are two dressing rooms. Big ones. Each with enough room for 20 to 25 players. We stop for a minute or two. There is not enough light in one of the showers in the main dressing room. There are engineers, architects and football officials standing around. Each one is proffering suggestions. In the end we decide to lower the wall. This will enable enough light to penetrate the area without affecting the basic structure.
A different problem in the referees’ dressing room. A smaller problem. A wall between the showers and the door deprives the occupants of space. More suggestions. We decide to get rid of the wall. The referees will feel more comfortable. There are no major obstacles in the gymnasium. The president of the local association comments: “We need more funds before we can equip this hall with weight training apparatus.”
We spend three hours exchanging ideas and chatting about football. After the inspection, it is mealtime when we review the builders’ expenses. My companions leave for the water company to try to iron out hitches that have held up laying the grass, and I return to the hotel.
Trip to the library
After checking my e-mails, I take a taxi to the public library. I intend to read through old journals to discover more about local football. I flick through El Tiempo from Piura and I discover fascinating information on the changes which local club Atlético Grau has undergone, the building of the Miguel Grau Stadium, and Guillermo Rojas’ serious injury with the local Estrella Roja club in 1958. It is information which I keep in mind because it helps to understand how football evolved in the towns and the country. During lunch we analyse the funds invested. Satisfactory answers are given to a few questions and it only remains to say thank you for the assistance and the work, as everything seems to be settled.
Later on, the plane to Lima. That evening, dinner with the association’s Vice-President, Manuel Burga, General Secretary Javier Quintana, and architect Carlos Franco. We discuss football. I cannot help mentioning Nicolás Delfino’s presidency (who is in Paraguay attending a CONMEBOL Executive Committee meeting) and who will be stepping down in October 2002. Peruvian football is inheriting an outstanding infrastructure. Four complexes in all. A laudable example.
The next day starts like the previous one, checking and answering e-mails and reading newspapers. I find a few minutes to slip off to the public library. I bury myself in old journals again. I discover from one edition of El Comercio in 1930 that Law no. 6661 of the Republic proclaimed on 3 January: the Peruvian Government has granted assistance of 2,000 pounds sterling to train the team taking part in the first World Cup. There is other information which vividly illustrates how a simple hobby grew into the useful instrument it now is.
A working meal brings our inspection to a conclusion. We agree with the association officials on forthcoming activities regarding the inauguration of the two centres. The opening is scheduled for October so we need to start planning the ceremony now to give it the impact it deserves.
Two new questions
We leave for the airport after saying goodbye. Tacna is awaiting us in the south of Peru. It welcomes us coldly. We arrive at night and agree to meet the builders and football officials for an inspection of the centre early in the morning. Work on the administrative offices is more advanced than in Piura but the pitches are behind schedule. Anyone comparing the progress of building in the two complexes would declare a draw since the air is bristling with enthusiasm in both centres and, even though two different building companies are involved, they both toil with the same fervour.
We look at a familiar model because both centres have the same design but a different layout: the pitches are on split levels and since it was not necessary to fence in the perimeter of the site, the rest of the money has been invested in stands for 700 spectators.
We discuss general points and then move on to the details. We know what has to be fixed in the shower of the main dressing-room and what has to be changed in the referees’ dressing-room. There is not much to talk about here.
But new doubts have arisen. Two: first of all, regarding the meeting room in the administrative building. It will have to be relocated because it is facing two offices. We suspect it will not be private enough when in use. And in football, walls talk. A detail which had been overlooked in Piura but which we manage to warn them of in time.
The other is of a more basic nature: the stands need rest rooms but there is no sign of them either in the plans or the sketches. They overstretch the budget but they are as essential to the building as a football to the game. We pinpoint the ideal spot. the gents’ in the south of the stands; the ladies’ near the entrance. We shall find the funds.
The inspection takes a few hours. As usual, we talk football and building. Afterwards, we wait for the press to turn up, as we did in Piura, because publicity is part and parcel of the job.
Commitment and duty
Later on, I come across a book on the history of football in Tacna at a book fair. I snap it up for my collection, learning new facts since it contains all of the gen on the development of football in Peru’s southernmost town.
Night falls as I check an expense report. It is time to leave the empire of the Incas. A taxi takes me to Arica airport – a town close to the Chilean border – in 90 minutes and so I save a few hours; if I returned to Lima, I would be travelling at midnight. So I shall be more relaxed the next day to wrap up the week - ordering papers, sending letters, requesting more payments and sussing out the next inspection.
The responsibility of FIFA development officers is not limited to building sites or the FIFA office in Zurich or architects and builders. It concerns the future of football. Obviously.
A future being built in hundreds of countries featuring the Goal Programme. Those unsuspecting, anonymous labourers will probably not stop to think that there is much more to the bricks, nails and cement in their hands; but there is, in fact, the dreams of thousands of others hoping to improve their football skills.
Our commitment and duty is to those who are seeking their Goal via the ball. Goal
The Goal Programme
- Initiated by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter to benefit the national associations, and ratified by the 1999 Extraordinary FIFA Congress in Los Angeles
- Tailor-made development and assistance programme designed to realise projects based on the specific needs of national associations
- Global budget of CHF 100 million over a period of four years (1999 – 2002)
- Supervised by the Goal Bureau, which includes representatives from each confederation and is responsible for selecting national associations and approving projects, under the chairmanship of Mohamed Bin-Hammam (Qatar) Overall objectives
- Boost the development of football and what it stands for worldwide
- Strengthen the national associations
- Reduce discrepancies in standards and infrastructure around the world Projects are intended to satisfy the needs and priorities of the national associations in the Goal Programme and include:
- New and renovated headquarters enabling the independent management of football business
- Technical centres for training youth and senior national teams, and staging coaching and refereeing courses, and youth and grassroots development activities
- Artificial turf pitches to provide year-round playing facilities
- Natural turf pitches to improve the quantity and quality of playing facilities at national or regional level
- Renovation of stands at football stadiums to improve spectator comfort
- Renovation of football schools for youth and grassroots development
- Education programmes Facts and figures
- Number of national associations currently benefiting from Goal: 117
- Number of projects inaugurated (by August 2002): 20
- Amount spent so far (by August 2002): CHF 50 million