HH Nasser bin Hamad addresses FIFA Congress
(Manama) – HH Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Representative of His Majesty the King for Charity Works and Youth Affairs, Chairman of the Supreme Council for Youth and Sports, President of Bahrain Olympic Committee, delivered a speech in the opening of the annual FIFA congress in the presence of FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, Shaikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, President of the Asian Football Confederation, Confederation Presidents, FIFA Council Members and FIFA Member Associations.
“It gives me a great pleasure to welcome you today on behalf of His Majesty and my fellow Bahraini men and women to our country,” HH Shaikh Nasser said.
“This is a monumental day for our nation as we host the global football family under one roof. We would like to thank the FIFA for providing us with the opportunity to gather the greatest minds of policy-makers and shapers of football today in Bahrain. This adds another dimension to our national vision to be an island that hosts, supports, organises, develops and participates in the success of the global sports movement, in all its forms, including football.
“Developing the sports sector with its various components in the Kingdom of Bahrain is not only a formal mandate that I am honoured to undertake but also one of my personal missions that I hold near and dear to my heart. I believe I don’t speak only on my behalf when I say that from early childhood, sports presented the first encounter with the impact and challenges of teamwork, how to form a united front despite having diverse backgrounds and abilities, and more importantly, how to accept and recognise the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals and the team as a whole.
“As the years pass, sports have grown to become an indispensable part of our lives; and at times, the best ice-breaker. This enabled us to grow with an ever more appreciation for the tremendous role diversity, fair play and tolerance play in ensuring sports remain a force for good. Historically, sports such as: falconry, horse racing and camel racing have been a strong aspect of our tradition and culture as a nation, evolving over centuries from means of survival to developed sport practices and more recently as well-preserved intangible cultural heritage of humanity with the support of the UNESCO.
“With the development of our modern state in the 19th century, our leadership has advocated the value of sport in transforming communities, bringing them together and introducing positive social change. As a result, we have been encouraged and empowered; as officials, sportsmen and women, and even as sports enthusiasts to be champions for sports.
“In Bahrain, we don’t dream small, we dream big. This year, Bahrain held its 13th edition of its F1 Grand Prix. In 2004, Bahrain was the first country in the region to have an F1 Grand Prix organised on its soil but in 2016, our very own Bahraini F1 organisers were in Baku exporting our robust know-how in organising a world-class race. As we speak in this Congress, Bahrain-Merida team, the first pro-cycling team from the region, is competing in Giro d’ Italia, with the eyes of our local cycling talents on Nibali – the Captain of the Team- and his colleagues as a source of inspiration. Our Bahrain Endurance triathlon team continues to conquer more races around the global and help us develop home-grown world-class triathletes. And most notably, our athletes have grabbed the highest number of gold medals from the region in the Rio Olympics.
“Having said that, football – no doubt – remains the sport that colours every Bahraini home. Passions for football are not only peaking during watching local leagues, Gulf Cups, regional tournaments and the World Cup, but also during following local leagues in other continents. Such passions must be utilised, this is why we wholeheartedly support FIFA’s and the AFC’s vision for the future to enhance football’s role as a powerful tool for social development and inclusion.
“On a competitive level, we take pride in our women’s national football team; the first female football team from the region. Since its formal inception, the team has gone a long way and made history in 2014 as the first female team from the region to play against a European team. We support them and admire them as they continue to shatter cultural misconceptions whilst furthering their international reach. Our men’s national team continues to learn from its various local, regional and international experiences. We still remember vividly 2006 and 2010 when our national team was one goal away from the World Cup in the Intercontinental Play-offs. With the new introduction of a 48-team FIFA World Cup, we remain more hopeful than ever of future opportunities for our national team and other aspiring nations around the world to reach the world cup.
“It is a privilege for the Kingdom of Bahrain to become a meeting place in 2017 for the masterminds behind global football. My message to you as sports administrators is to encourage joint projects and cross-continental efforts. Let’s widen participation and turn football into a true catalyst for diversity, tolerance and excellence. In 2022, the FIFA World Cup will be hosted for the first time in the Middle East; the whole region will be buzzing with anticipation and enthusiasm. I turn to my fellow football enthusiasts and urge them to benefit from the beauty of football that stems from its ability to transform you as an individual every step of the way; whether you win or lose. In football, you learn by playing, so let’s play.”