The eyes of the footballing world were focused on the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ for the last month. However, FIFA’s Football Development department already have their attention turned to the following edition of the tournament. In 2026, the FIFA World Cup will be organised by three CONCACAF countries – USA, Mexico and Canada, with the latter recently hosting a seminar on the FIFA Coach Development Pathway.
With the men’s team having qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1986 and the women’s team winning an historic Olympic gold in 2021, Canada is reaping the rewards of the effectiveness of its football federation’s development programmes, with the support of FIFA and Concacaf. Not every member association has the same level of resources to call on, and FIFA – as set out in President Gianni Infantino’s Vision 2020-2023 – is looking to extend its support to each and every one of them.
"It’s a vast programme, tailored to each member association, in which we take the right measures for everyone, for the long term. It’s our main message: talent development is not something that there’s a quick fix for. You need patience, sustained investment and staying power," said Steven Martens, FIFA Director of Global Football Development. "In the FIFA Coaches Development Pathway, we work with people capable of developing coaches in their own countries."
A pathway for each country
"The pathway that we are suggesting to the three 2026 FIFA World Cup host nations involves making sure that there are enough high-level coach educators to ensure that all of the kids and youngsters playing our sport, girls and boys, have an excellent coach and a great experience," he explained. "Our ambition is that by 2026 when the World Cup is held here, every country in the world will have its own coach development pathway."
After initial online sessions over recent years, the Canadian educators continued their own training at the seminar held in Montreal last month, from 24 – 28 October. It was an opportunity for those taking part not only to improve their skillsets but also to share their knowledge with the FIFA experts and their colleagues.
"Being able to interact with other educators, and in particular with the FIFA staff that has given me such support, I grew not only as a coaches’ educator and developer of educators but also as a person. And I really appreciate the networking that I got to benefit from throughout the programme," said Connie Marshall, who is an educator in the province of Ontario, before going on to outline one of her personal goals. "As the only female coaches’ educator in my province, I’ve realised that I need to expand my role to encourage other women to become educators."
For Jason De Vos, Head of Development at the Canadian Football Association, this collaboration with world football’s governing body is crucial in taking the next step in terms of the quality of the training. "The expertise that FIFA provides as the leader of sport around the world is a key aspect in taking the training of coaches to another level in our country," the former Canadian international defender said. "Being able to work with their experts can then rub off around the country when it comes to training more coaches’ educators in Canada, who by extension will train more coaches. It's an exciting opportunity for us and we’re very grateful for FIFA’s involvement and leadership in this respect."
Technical and social responsibility
As one of the other host nations of the next World Cup, USA are also looking to make the most of this programme, at every level. "We see 2026 as a genuine opportunity to expand access to our sport and to improve the development of coaches, which at the end of the day will have an impact on a greater number of players," said Dan Russell, Senior Director, Sport Development at the US federation. "More and better quality coaches will enable more and better quality players to have the best experiences – and ideally stay longer in our sport."
FIFA’s involvement is not limited to the host nations of the World Cup in 2026. With the implementation of the programme in the region, all of the Concacaf member associations will eventually get to benefit from this joint operation. "No-one should be left by the wayside. We know that with the best educators, we will have the best coaches working with the best players and it’s important that Concacaf play a role in this process," said Jason Roberts, former Grenada striker and Concacaf Director of Development.
"The FIFA World Cup 2026 is a guiding star for everyone. Obviously there’s the football aspect – the greatest entertainment on the planet," explained the one-time English Premier League forward who plied his trade with the likes of Blackburn, Wigan and Reading. "Beyond that, there is an opportunity for us to have a collective impact, not just technically but also in terms of social responsibility, ensuring that there is greater access to football for youngsters, coaches and administrators, and also that football continues to change the world by demonstrating what it can do and how it can transform communities in various countries."