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We Want To Qualify For South Africa

Constant Omari Selemani is President of the Congo DR football association (FECOFA). He was in Switzerland in June to take in some of the action from UEFA EURO 2008 and travelled to the Home of FIFA in Zurich to visit FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter.
Could you tell us a bit more about the reasons for your visit to FIFA?
Constant Omari Selemani: I came to Zurich to visit President Blatter in person and bring to his attention a certain number of problems affecting our association. I also made special mention of the qualification of our women’s U-20 team for the 2008 World Cup in Chile at the end of this year and I caught up with the latest FIFA news!
Congo DR have started well in their qualifying campaign for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™…
Selemani: It’s been a good start. Losing 2-1 to reigning African champions Egypt is nothing to be ashamed of, especially as the team put in a very good performance. Then we won at home against Malawi before going on to beat Djibouti home and away. We’re now top of the group, which is fantastic.
Patrice Neveu is the new coach; what has he been asked to achieve?
Selemani: The goals we have set Patrice Neveu are clear. Firstly, getting the national team back on its feet. We didn’t qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations, so we need to rebuild our national team. After that, we have to try to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and thus also for the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations in Angola.
A large number of Congo DR internationals play in Europe…
Selemani: There must be 80 per cent of our internationals playing abroad. That’s a lot. But there are plenty of reasons for that. First of all, all the good African players – or most of them – leave for Europe, where they benefit from better training and better infrastructure. Once there, they naturally stay a notch above the local players who live with problems relating to organisation, training, etc. As a result, the fact that most of our players play for clubs abroad is an asset for our national team. But in terms of domestic development, it’s a weakness, because the success of African players in Europe doesn’t benefit the local leagues enough. We need to come up with new initiatives and ideas on how to develop the local leagues in Africa and, through that, have national teams with a local spine.
One of Congo DR’s most stunning recent successes has been the second consecutive qualification of the women’s U-20 side for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. How do you explain that?
Selemani: For a long time, women’s football was a little bit taboo in our country. It wasn’t easy to get girls to play football. We started up a national league for women’s football. After the first qualification for the U-20 Women’s World Cup in 2006 in Russia, we organised the Women’s Congo Cup, based on teams drawn from the provinces. After qualifying for Russia 2006, it had a knock-on effect, with lots of young women and girls discovering they had a vocation. That enthusiasm has borne fruit, little by little, which explains how we managed to qualify for the second time in a row this year.