Cameroon legend Geremi Njitap and CAF deputy secretary-general Anthony Baffoe will headline a host of the game’s former stars who will converge in Victoria Falls for the annual FIFPro Africa Division Congress that bursts into life tomorrow.
In a first for the country, the Footballers Union of Zimbabwe, are hosting this year’s congress of the African Division of the World Footballers Association, which will run from tomorrow to Saturday.
FUZ president Desmond Maringwa revealed yesterday that Njitap and Baffoe will be among the 40 delegates expected to start trooping into the country today for the indaba that is key to the welfare of professional footballers across the continent.
The maiden congress to be staged by FUZ comes following a successful bidding by Maringwa’s leadership.
The former Dynamos and Zimbabwe midfielder has been working tirelessly to ensure the country’s footballers also receive the same kind of attention and treatment in line with current global trends. Maringwa said FUZ had deliberately chosen to stage the congress in Victoria Falls to also market brand Zimbabwe.
Sports Tourism has been on the ascendancy in Zimbabwe with a number of international football and other sporting legends visiting the country’s various resort areas. In the next few days, the spotlight will fall on Zimbabwe in as much as the focus will be on the leaders of player unions around Africa as they gather for their round table.
“The different FIFPro Divisions whether it is Europe, Asia or South America hold these congresses in their respective zones and I am glad that our bid to hold the Africa Division Congress was successful and hence we have 40 delegates coming to Victoria Falls.
“I think it is in recognition of the work that we have been doing of late that we were granted the right to host the congress and we are very happy about it as this also puts the country on the right map.
“We decided to host it in Victoria Falls as part of marketing our country and Africa at large and we believe that after the congress the delegates will be able to go back to their respective countries and talk about Victoria Falls and Zimbabwe as well as return with family and friends to visit our tourist resorts,’’ Maringwa said.
Maringwa also urged local footballers to take FUZ activities seriously and follow the other countries.
“We have come a long way in terms of our governance hence we are now able to host such a congress. I would urge local players to be members of this union and be part of the global village’’.
Maringwa, while not at liberty to reveal much about the topics they will discuss, hinted that “a lot of the key issues are internal but will be centred on player welfare and the strategies that will be used going forward’’.
ZIFA and Premier Soccer League officials are also expected to grace the opening ceremony of the congress tomorrow after which the delegates would go into closed door sessions.
Njitap, who won the UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid in 2000 and featured for a number of English clubs including Chelsea and Newcastle, completed a memorable season that year when he captained the Cameroon squad to Olympic gold at the Summer Games in Sydney, Australia.
He also featured 108 times for the Indomitable Lions while his club football record includes stints in Paraguay and Turkey.
Baffoe, who resisted attempts to lure him to play for Germany and stuck with his native Ghana, has seen his administrative profile grow in leaps and was on November 16, 2017, appointed CAF deputy general-secretary in-charge of football and development.
The former defender was also part of the Black Stars squad that finished second in the 1992 Africa Cup of Nations in Senegal and played alongside the likes of three-time Africa Player of the Year, Abedi Pele another legendary striker, Anthony Yeboah, and incumbent head coach of Ghana James Kwesi Appiah.
After his playing career, Baffoe used his broad popularity to set up and front a new TV magazine show devoted to youth football.
He was successful on German television in various sport programmes and also acting as host of Viasat One’s UEFA Champions League show in Ghana.
Legendary former Egyptian midfielder Magdi Abdelghani Sayed Ahmed, the first African player to score a penalty kick in the World Cup when helping the Pharaohs to a 1-1 draw against the Netherlands at the 1990 show-piece in Italy, will also be in Victoria Falls.