Cayman Islands--Today at the CONCACAF 2013 Sport Summit, "Transformation through Partnership," CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb opened the summit saying "This federation is poised for expansion and this summit is one of the efforts toward that goal."
The host confederation, the first to hold such a global summit, is home to some 43 million football players and the FIFA entity with the largest percentage of women players (23%) in the world. Under Webb's leadership development is priority one and the confederation, encompassing North and Central America and the Caribbean, is spending 76% of its 2013 budget on development. The sport summit focuses on the nexus between that development and the needed partnerships between the sport and business and government entities that are needed to see that effort succeed.
A first of its kind, the summit will attempt to show both the transformative potential of the sport--to change the lives of individuals for the better--and the aggregate value of the sought partnerships for society writ large.
Last night, at the gala dinner that opened the public side of the summit (FIFA piggy-banked its own technical meetings that were held before and will be held after the public meeting), South African Tokyo Sexwale spoke of the sustenance he derived from the sport under conditions of great duress. He was a political prisoner in an isolation cell on Robben Island, where he was held along with Nelson Mandela in the struggle against the country’s apartheid regime.
"Football, as Nelson Mandela himself said, has the power to change lives," he said, and "I am proof of that ." He gave examples of the slow but ultimately lasting bonds built between inmates and jailers who jointly participated in football matches--"We as players and them as the audience who watched us." Upon his eventual release, Sexwale has traveled the world sharing his story.
Today FIFA President Sepp Blatter, delivering the introductory keynote speech, spoke of the partnerships between the sport and the business entities that help fund and expand the reach of the sport. He focused on the role of football as a force for bringing peoples together and concluded, before ushering the summit forward, that "We are just a part of the solution, the solution to some of the world's strife, to help fight the ills of racism and poverty and intolerance. We are not the solution to the world's ills, but we have a tremendous responsibility, an important role to play, and we must embrace it."