A good morning to you all, and allow me to begin, by officially welcoming you to Rwanda.
We are very happy to have you here.
And I thank FIFA for choosing Rwanda as the host of this year’s elective Congress.
This is a great honour, even more so because you could have chosen to go elsewhere.
To Qatar and FIFA, congratulations for organizing a successful World Cup last year. And to Argentina, congratulations to be the champions.
It was one of the best tournaments in memory.
Under the FIFA Forward Programme, and the exceptional leadership of Gianni Infantino, football is becoming a more inclusive global sport.
I first got to know Gianni around eight years ago, when he was campaigning to lead FIFA.
I was convinced by his values, and by his vision for the positive role that football can play in society.
He was the leader FIFA needed at that moment, and everything I have seen from that time, until now, assures me that he deserves to continue to lead this organization.
I welcome the expansion of the number of teams participating in the next World Cup.
Under this format, the slots available for African teams will almost double, creating even more engagement and visibility on our continent.
What is important, is the plan to continue developing football in Africa, and anchoring the sport here.
We need to protect and nurture national football.
The Africa Cup of Nations is not a ‘little tournament’.
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 those gaps. But working together, we can reach our common objectives more quickly.
The football we build here in Africa can have as much value as it does in the places our players tend to go to pursue their careers.
I commend Patrice Motsepe for his leadership of CAF and thank him once again for the honour bestowed on us the other night, which only encourages us to do more.
We were also very happy yesterday, to unveil the Kigali Pelé Stadium, in honour of the Brazilian legend that we all know.
We also want to ensure equal opportunity for women, both on the field of play, and among managers, officials, referees, and other key supporting professions.
In January, the Rwanda Football Association, in collaboration with FIFA, launched a four-year strategic development plan for women’s football.
Sport is meant to bring people together.
In fact, the role of sports in our lives, and particularly football, is only becoming more central and sophisticated, as 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.
That speaks to why Qatar was proud to host the World Cup, and Rwanda is honoured to host this FIFA Congress.
We need to keep bad politics out of sports, as we saw last year in the constant, hypocritical criticism at the World Cup.
Instead of asking, why is it being held there, first ask, why not?
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.
That 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 behaviours.
So, we need to work together to ensure that the game is inclusive and respectful of everyone.
Ladies and gentlemen, once again, I welcome you to Kigali and hope that you will keep coming back to visit us. You will be very welcome.
I wish you a very productive meeting and thank you for your kind attention.