Salman outlines pathway for Syria to return to hosting international matches

May 23 – AFC president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifi has said that he feels comfortable that the security situation in Syria is now safe and that the AFC and FIFA can work toward allowing international football to again be played in the country.

On a visit to Syria and then to Lebanon over the past week, Salman spoke with local media about football in both countries that has been disrupted by the politics and instability within the region.

In Syria he met with President Bashar al-Assad and federation officials, where he presented a road map towards lifting the ban on Syrian stadiums. As well as safety issues within the country, he outlined requirements for stadiums upgrades and supporting infrastructure including roads, hotels and training facilities, as well as providing protocols for teams and officials to enter the country.

“The security issue is talked about by the security scrutiny committees in FIFA, but for me personally I visited Syria and spent hours and toured the capital, Damascus, and saw that things are very normal,” Salman told Lebanese media.

Addressing the issue of stadiums and sports facilities, and the funding of their refurbishment, he said: “I will be very frank with you. Talking about rehabilitating facilities and football stadiums in any country is loose, as international organizations are not able to build new stadiums, but all that can be done in the Asian and international federations, it is to link the rehabilitation of facilities to projects.

“These projects require a fixed mechanism for providing support, as we do not deal with countries, governments and municipalities, and they are bodies to which stadiums and facilities are directly linked. Rather, we deal with federations and support cannot be provided as long as the national federations, especially the Lebanese federation, do not have official documents.”

While annual grants from FIFA and the AFC can top $2.5 million, Salman pointed out that they cannot be used solely for infrastructure but must support a wider development of the game within the country.

It confirms that these facilities and stadiums are under the management of the federation.

And he went on about the responsibilities: “There is a joint responsibility between more than one party, and the responsibility of the national federations in any country comes in the last place after countries, governments and clubs, and therefore we know the circumstances that Lebanon is going through, but all we ask is to put facilities and stadiums at the disposal of the federation so that the two international federations (FIFA and the AFC) can look to support rehabilitation projects.”

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