In a half hour interview the Cymru Football Foundation’s Head of Facility Investment and Operations, Aled Lewis, outlines the CFF’s core beliefs and aims. He details the work of the Foundation and plans for grass-roots development, including on pitches over five years.
Lewis details why Wales took 64 years to qualify for the World Cup again and the development he believes has helped elevate Welsh football and footballers, both male and female. He explains how both Wales and other nations can benefit from their experiences – pitch development and maintenance, for example.
Welsh legend John Charles is revered in Zambia too. In the summer of 1967, a John Charles XI toured Zambia. Among the players his team faced was a young Godfrey Chitalu – a year later Chitalu announced his arrival in world football by breaking Pelé’s record for the most goals in a calendar year. Four years later Chitalu, not the late great Gerd Müller broke his own record – a still unbroken 116 goals in 1972. Forty years later Lionel Messi netted 91 times – a fantastic effort, but Chitalu’s tally remains the record.
Lewis detailed Welsh football’s commitment to encouraging everyone to play and also to football’s role in making the world a better place. Obviously, this included the topical issue of Qatar’s human rights record in the context f the role of football and what Wales and other participating nations in the World Cup planned to do. This is particularly important given FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s call to concentrate on the football rather than Qatar’s record – a call that was met with dismay by Amnesty International and others.
Lewis says there is responsibility for Wales to showcase and advocate their values of unity, equality and inclusivity through World Cup and that everybody should be treated the same. He wants to see Wales succeed on and off the pitch and for Qatar to have a legacy that continues during and after the World Cup. While Harry Kane will wear the rainbow armband, Wales have had discussions to send strong message of inclusivity around the World Cup.
He outlined his hopes to see improvements in pitches and facilities for girls and women and to develop further as the World Cup will offer greater opportunities for some countries that have not had the opportunity to test themselves against the best in the world and develop when the World Cup changes its format to 48 teams in 2026.
In the current climate of anti-immigrant feeling, Azerbaijan’s Qarabağ – the real refugees’ team – deserve a special mention. Evicted from their homes during the war in Nagorno-Karabakh in the 1990s, Qarabağ relocated to Baku, but never forgot their roots – they provide tickets and help for their original fan base to support the team in Baku. Lewis offered to help facilitate a gesture of solidarity from Wales to Qarabağ.
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