Liberia: President Weah Keynotes Conference On African Football's Future, Calling for More Support

His Excellency President George Manneh Weah has shared his thoughts on the future of African football as the continent grapples with the coronavirus pandemic that has disrupted every sector of life, including sports.

Giving the keynote address at the opening of the online Sports Conference Monday, May 25, 2020 organized by Africa Sports Venture Group and UNESCO, the President acknowledged ongoing interventions being made in the global supply chain to aid the fight against the deadly Coronavirus as well as economic stimulus programs to businesses and other income generating institutions to address the effects caused by the virus on economic activities.

President Weah recognized that global sports including football was not spared by the debilitating impacts of Covid-19 as the global economy hits an unprecedented downward pace.

"In response to this global threat, many governments, international institutions, and companies from the private sector have taken various actions to address the negative socio-economic impact of the virus on our populace," the President said, acknowledging the alleviating actions geared towards putting struggling businesses back on course

He added: "Various special Funds have been established to provide loans and grants to businesses, debt relief, salary payments to the unemployed, food for citizens, purchase of medical equipment and PPE's, construction of new emergency hospitals, and many other measures."

The President however indicated that, to the best of his knowledge, little or no provisions have been made in support of sports programs, which are an important part of the socio-economic fabric of our various societies.

He informed the Sports Conference held under the theme, "The Future of Sports in Africa - Post COVID 19", that prior to Covid-19, almost all of the sports programs in Africa have been historically under-supported financially.

"Low investment have left sports in a very fragile state of development, depending mostly on sponsorships from private businesses or individuals for their continued existence," President Weah, an internationally acclaimed former footballer, told the gathering.

Against this backdrop and considering other factors, the Liberian Leader stressed that the future of sports in Africa after the Covid-19 pandemic is bleak and problematic.

President Weah noted that African Football is not even guaranteed to recover even to pre-Covid-19 levels for many years to come, adding "This crisis will negatively impact all clubs and all leagues in Africa and all national teams."

The former FIFA Footballer of the Year also stressed that precautionary measures being put in place by governments to contain the spread of Covid-19, such as lockdowns, social distancing, quarantines, and curfews, will have a devastating and drastic negative impact on sports in general.

He said: "The lifeblood of sports consists mainly of attendance fees and sponsorships, and where these no longer exist, many clubs will collapse, and many leagues will close permanently."

"There will be an urgent need to resuscitate football and all other games, and to recognize that the people and institutions involved in sports also require some form of sustenance or support to survive until the crisis comes to an end," he indicated, stressing that the global funding being raised to fight Covid-19 should recognize the social importance of sports in our economies, and the important contributions that sports make to unity, peacebuilding, and social cohesion.

He called on organizing bodies such as FIFA to use their special skills and fund-raising networks to raise awareness of the plight facing the beautiful game of football.

"Special appeals should be made to international bodies such as the United Nations and its agencies, as well as with other large financial institutions such as the IMF, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and the Afeximbank," President Weah pleaded for the sports sector.

He expressed regret that the pandemic occurred at the time the new leadership at CAF had begun to embark upon programs that would have contributed to significant improvements in sports infrastructure on the continent, but called on FIFA to continue to lend its assistance and support to CAF.

The Liberian Leader used the occasion to offer condolences to families around the world who lost relatives and loved ones to Covid-19

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