Africa: FIFA Congress - Keep Bad Politics Out of Sports - Kagame

President Paul Kagame on Thursday, March 16, called on world leaders to keep bad politics out of sports.

Kagame was addressing close to 2,000 delegates including top football executives from world football governing body (FIFA) meeting in Kigali for the 73rd FIFA Congress. The FIFA Congress, the supreme legislative body of FIFA, brings together top executives from FIFA, confederations and representatives from 211-member associations and other football stakeholders.

Kagame said that the role of sports in people's lives, and particularly football, is only becoming more central and sophisticated, at a time when other methods of promoting global solidarity become more fragile.

"What the world needs is to see more of the positive spirit of sportsmanship in our politics, rather than bringing political divisions into sports," he told a packed hall at the BK Arena.

That speaks to why Qatar was proud to host last year's World Cup Tournament and Rwanda is honored to host this FIFA Congress, he added.

"We need to keep bad politics out of sports, as we saw last year in the constant hypocritical criticism at the World Cup last year," Kagame stressed.

Instead of asking why it is being held there, the Head of State pointed out, first ask why not.

He added: "Unless we are talking about a kind of entitlement that only some of us on this globe deserve to enjoy.

"It is about keeping some people in their place, but that kind of attitude should have been left far behind in history by now."

Inclusive and respectful of everyone

While major decisions are taken by the world football governing body, Kagame underscored that it is not to say that athletes do not have a right to object to what personally affects them and their communities - "they certainly do."

"Politics in sports reflects the problems that society faces. When fans throw bananas at African football players or taunt a female referee, that is because of a negative social environment that feeds those wrong behaviors. So, we need to work together, to ensure that the game is inclusive, and respectful of everyone."

Kagame welcomed FIFA's decision to choose Rwanda as the host of this year's Congress, noting that the body could have chosen elsewhere.

"This is a great honor even more so because you could have chosen to go elsewhere."

He commended the successful organization of the 2022 World Cup Tournament, attributing every success to the hosts, Qatar, and FIFA.

"And to Argentina, congratulations on being the champions. It was one of the best tournaments in memory."

Under the leadership of Gianni Infantino, Kagame said, football is becoming a more inclusive global sport.

Kagame also welcomed expansion of the number of teams participating at the World Cup, pointing out that under the development, African team's slots will almost double, "creating even more engagement and visibility on our continent."

Promoting football in Africa

Kagame told participants at the Congress that what is important is the plan to continue developing football in Africa, and anchoring the sport on the continent.

"We need to protect and nurture national football."

The African Cup of Nations, he said, is not a little tournament, and that, often, the difference between a successful player in Africa and Europe is not talent.

"It is the lack of quality infrastructure, training and support."

"Of course each federation and association has the responsibility to fill these gaps, but working together we can reach our common objectives more quickly."

Against this backdrop, Kagame noted that the football built on the African continent can have as much value as it adds in the places African players tend to go to pursue their careers.

Kagame commended Patrice Motsepe for his leadership of CAF and also said he was honored to receive the CAF President's Outstanding Achievement Award 2022, noting that the award only encourages him to do more.

"We want to ensure equal opportunity for women both on the field of play and among managers, officials, referees, and other key supporting officials."

During the elections in the Congress, Infantino, the sole candidate for the top position after running unopposed is expected to be re-elected.

A candidate is eligible for three terms and, if elected, Infantino will be serving his last term in office.


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