With world champions, men, women and representatives of every Confederation, the fourth staging of the FIFA Legends Think Tank had everything: mass participation, diversity and, most of all, passion for every aspect of the modern game.
Over the course of three and a half hours at the star-studded London venue, more than 35 footballing personalities, all of whom had made their mark on the beautiful game, debated and contributed ideas on the standout issues affecting the current football landscape.
“It is important for FIFA to keep improving the way we give voice to the Legends who have written football history. When I realise that we are discussing with Didier Drogba, Geremi and Mido on how to develop African football, or Peter Shilton and David Seaman’s thoughts on goalkeeper coaching, I know that we are on the right track,” said Gianni Infantino on opening the meeting.
“It is also extremely gratifying to witness the increasing participation of women. This is how it should be. In order to empower women and grow women’s football, we need to listen to the likes of Nadine Kessler and Karina LeBlanc, and value everything that they have been working for on a confederation level, too,” added the FIFA President, who was accompanied by the Deputy Secretary General (Football) Zvonimir Boban.
Conclusions about the recent FIFA World Cup and the diverse views on how to improve the development of football in the different confederations were the starting point in a debate that also discussed, among other issues, the use of VAR – led by the Chairman of the Referees’ Committee Pierluigi Collina – and the international match calendar.
“These meetings are very interesting for us – not just because we’re heard and get to say what we have to say, but also as a learning process. You always hear something different that leaves you with a fresh outlook or new knowledge. You always learn something,” said Pablo Aimar, who became a U-20 world champion in 1997, participated in the FIFA World Cups of 2002 and 2006 and is currently coach of Argentina’s U-17 national team.
“I cannot think of any other time in my career when my voice as a player, a woman, a goalkeeper and now an administrator was all heard,” said Karina LeBlanc, who has recently been appointed as CONCACAF’s head of women’s football and whose comments were echoed by those of two-time Olympic champion Lindsay Tarpley-Snow:
“I am pleased to see more women involved this year. It is very important to continue to grow women’s football, and having a platform to express our thoughts and exchange ideas is a critical part of this process.”
New feature of the agenda
The second part of the Think Tank had a new feature, whereby the issues to be debated were suggested and approved by the FIFA Legends themselves, who have been having these types of discussions since May 2016.
Divided into six groups, each one discussed different topics that were publicly presented to all those present. How to improve fair play on the pitch? Can you prevent playing time from being lost during games? How to improve the present and future of women’s football? How to work together with former players to get them back involved in the game?
Those questions and many more generated proposals and suggestions from those who know the game better than anyone.
“Football is evolving and we need to make sure we are involved in those changes,” summarised Didier Drogba. “There is great experience around this group, and we are a big part of what football is all about, therefore we must be heard. I am looking forward to keeping working together in the future to ensure that we keep exchanging views and spreading this knowledge across all regions.”