International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) President Giovanni ‘Gianni’ Infantino will meet with Guyana’s Head of State His Excellency President David Granger the Guyana Football Federation’s Director of Communications Debra Francis stated yesterday.
Infantino arrives on local shores this morning with the highlight of his brief visit expected to be the ceremonial ‘turning of the sod’ for the long overdue FIFA ‘Forward Programme’.
Infantino, whose inaugural visit to Guyana is expected to last a mere four hours, is part of a six-member delegation from the world governing body.
Also expected are Véron Mosengo-Omba, FIFA Director of Member Associations and Development for Africa and the Caribbean, Mattias Grafstrom, FIFA Advisor to the President and Jasmin Frei, FIFA’s
Office Manager, Executive Office of the President.
Infantino, who served as Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Secretary General since 2009 under then President Michel Platini, is the ninth elected FIFA President and the first Italian to hold the post.
He took office on February 26th 2016 after defeating Bahrain’s Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa and Jordan’s Prince Ali bin Al Hussein in the second round of the 2016 Extraordinary Congress.
The Switzerland born Infantino, received 115 votes, which is more than the 50% majority needed for victory in the second round, compared to the two third percentage required in the first round of voting.
Asked what were some of the other major announcements that will be made by Infantino, Francis said “I don’t have the information right now”.
However what is known is that the FIFA boss, apart from meeting with President Granger, is expected to facilitate several meetings with major stakeholders of the sport.
After arriving at the Dr. Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Infantino will then proceed to the Providence Facility, the site of the Goal Project for the sod turning at 9:15hrs in the presence of Minister within the Ministry of Education, Nicolette Henry and GFF President Wayne Forde.
He is also expected to engage CARICOM Secretary General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque at the CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen at 10:00hrs, before visiting a GFF/Scotiabank Academy Training Centre (ATC) session at the CARIFESTA Sports Complex from 10:45hrs.
Lunch with the GFF executive committee will then occur at 11:30hrs at the Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel while his visit concludes with a Press Conference at 12:00hrs. Departure for the airport is pegged at 12:20hrs.
His tour occurs almost 16 years after FIFA Boss Sepp Blatter made the trek to Guyana for the now infamous sod turning fiasco in 2001, under the then Colin Klass regime.
In 1999, Guyana along with Belize, Bahamas, Nicaragua and St Lucia were selected to benefit from FIFA’s pilot initiative, the renamed ‘Goal Project’.
However, when Blatter visited Guyana for the historic sod turning for what was perceived to be the first football stadium on land under the control of the University of Guyana, it turned out to be the most embarrassing sporting moment locally as the soil was never turned with
Blatter later informing media operatives that FIFA does not build stadia. The building of stadia, he declared, was the responsibility of governments.
This was in stark contrast to what the then government had been told, which was that FIFA was going to fund the stadium at a cost of US$20m, by disgraced former FIFA Vice President Austin `Jack’ Warner.
The facility, which will be constructed at the Providence Community Centre Ground, will be done in two phases. The first phase of the project will be the installation of an artificial turf and the second phase will see infrastructure such as stands, lights, beach, Futsal training pitches, mini pitches and an administrative centre for the headquarters of the GFF being erected.
Former head of the GFF Normalization Committee, Clinton Urling, had brokered an agreement between the GFF and the Eccles/Ramsburg Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) for the location and was granted a 30-year lease for the land.
The saga of Guyana’s first FIFA funded football facility has been long and tortuous episode since Guyana was first identified as, one of the pilot nations to benefit from a US$400,000 football facility.
The visit of Infantino should serve as, a step in right direction and signal the long awaited start of the project which has seen progress recently after Berbice entity Dwain Ferdinand and Home Designs and Engineering Associates inked the contract for the initiative’s sub-base work.
The entity, which is based in New Amsterdam, won the contract during an extensive tender process, edging out Courtney Benn Construction Services following an assessment procedure conducted by a three member Evaluation Committee.
This occurred after Netherlands-based establishment Greenfields was officially selected by FIFA to build the Goal Project artificial surface following the conclusion of the International Tender Process.
Greenfields edged out fellow Netherlands-based entity Edel Grass after the bidding process was narrowed down to the two companies.