FÉDÉRATION Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) President Gianni Infantino recently visited the Philippines to show how FIFA can support football development and assess the Philippine Football Federation’s (PFF) efforts in further developing football in the country in line with the world governing body’s Forward Program.

Mr. Infantino met officials of the PFF, led by its president Mariano Araneta, during his two-day visit from Oct. 20 to 21, where he was briefed of the PFF’s efforts in promoting the sport in recent years, particularly in infrastructure, technical capacity building, competitions, grassroots, national league, and national teams.

The FIFA president took note of PFF’s efforts especially as the Philippines was one of only eight countries in Asia to qualify and compete in both the AFC Asian Cup in 2019 (men’s) and AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 2018.

“I’m very positive about football in the Philippines, I mean, already if you see the most recent results in the last year or two with qualification in the Asian Cup for men and for women… It’s much more competitive, [showing] that some work is done and that some progress is made,” said Mr. Infantino.

“(There are) 110 million people and there’s talent on the field as well. I’m sure the Philippines will play a key role in the future, [not only] in the ASEAN Region but also in the world,” he added.

Mr. Infantino also underscored the Philippines’ role in further growing the sport through FIFA’s Forward Programme, which aims to develop football through three main principles: more investment, more impact, and more oversight.

“We need to make it truly global and we need to increase the level,” said the FIFA official, who shared as well that he is hoping that down the line the Philippines gets to compete in the World Cup.

While also here, Mr. Infantino met with Filipino boxing icon and Philippine Senator Manny Pacquiao and women sports advocate Senator Pia Cayetano where they shared ideas on how sports can inspire and help the youth and the communities.

For the PFF, the visit of Mr. Infantino was very much welcome as it provided it the opportunity to get further input to enhance its efforts for the sport in the country.

“We thank Mr. Gianni Infantino for his memorable visit to the country. His visit has been an eye-opener for everyone. We know that more work has to be done to continuously develop the sport in the country, and with help from the private and public sectors, football will continue to foster,” said Mr. Araneta. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo