“It was a ten-hour flight to Europe, a continent none of our players had been to until then,” said Theodore Rakotoarimino, a member of the executive committee of the Madagascan Football Federation (FMF), telling FIFA.com about Madagascar’s trip to the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Portugal 2015 back in July.
Continuing to discuss the island nation’s first ever appearance in a FIFA World Cup competition, he added: “When the players got there, they were fascinated by the size of the cities, the development of the country and the differences with our island. Our diet in Madagascar is based on rice, a little bit of fish and meat. You can imagine how surprised they were when they were served a bowl of pasta.
“With all these new things to absorb and take in, how were the team supposed to focus on their first match?”
It is with the aim of bridging the experience gap and giving their men’s and women’s teams the exposure and technique they need to compete in international tournaments that the FMF initiated a development policy a few years ago.
Now in 2015, the FMF has embarked on a four-year programme, with the two latest training courses taking place in July in the towns of Tulear and Fianarantsoa, situated respectively in the south-west and the centre of the island. The aim of such initiatives is to give the regions in question a better understanding of the importance of providing grassroots training for youngsters, while also encouraging more children to take up the game.
The two courses and the FIFA Grassroots Festivals gave some 52 local coaches – six of them women – the opportunity to undergo training supervised by Jean-Francois Lebon, the FMF’s national director of football, and FIFA grassroots instructor Yvon Avry. In total, some 1,800 children took part in workshops, training sessions and tournaments across both sites: 896 in Tulear and 850 in Fianarantsoa, including around 200 girls at each.
“Judging by the national director of football’s presentation, the desire and commitment of the teachers and coaches and the enthusiasm with which the youngsters took part in the practical sessions and the festival, Madagascan grassroots football has got a lot going for it,” said Avry, who, following his stay on the island, met with the heads of the five regional leagues to discuss development-related needs.
The fact that the opening practical session attracted some 118 children instead of the expected 40 reflects the huge interest in football on the island. Aware of this passion, the organisers staged local workshops in both towns, with the theory components focusing on the training of teachers and coaches, refereeing, and on grassroots, youth and women’s football.
“A lot of effort has been put in, with an effective training plan and tangible results, though there is a lack of more specific projects and more resources to develop these types of football,” explained Avry. “The meeting with the five leagues and the training courses held in Tulear and Fianarantsoa have given me a better insight into the significant extent to which Madagascar is lagging behind in youth and women’s football.”
Explaining the reasons behind this, the FIFA instructor pointed to the lack of infrastructure for youngsters, a shortage of qualified teachers, the absence of youth competitions and football in schools, scarce funding and the difficulties faced by young women in finding clubs.
Every problem has a solution, however, and given the level of satisfaction derived by the teachers and children who took part in the two events, the obstacles mentioned by Avry can be overcome with the help of the development programmes put in place by the FMF and supported by FIFA.