Salon des Sports et Loisirs de Côte d’Ivoire
Published 13 October 2009 By: Alfonso Valero
Last week I went last to Ivory Coast to participate as a guest lecturer in the ‘Salon des Sports et Loisirs de Côte d’Ivoire’ (Sports and Leisure Ivory Coast Exhibition). The organisers invited me as Editor of Law in Sport and as a European lawyer to speak about issues affecting the African players (immigration issues, child protection) and about sports regulations in Europe.
The conference was an initiative by Dr Philippe Ibitowa, general director of Abraham & Abraham Consulting (Ivory Coast), but counted with a wealth of collaborators, such as Dr René Djedjemel Diby (former Sports Minister of Ivory Coast), Mr Yeo Martial (Technical Director of the national team of Ivory Coast) and Dr Julien Michel Adhepeau (Head of the Communications department of the University of Cocody).
The experience was extremely satisfactory in all levels: professionally and personally; and I want to think that they made the most of my invitation.
Ivory Coast is a sporting nation. As any other developing country, the children play sports (football, mainly, although basketball is also very popular) in every space available. I arrived in the afternoon of a Wednesday, and on the way to the hotel from the airport I could see several groups of kids kicking a ball.
But, as the exhibition to which I was invited demonstrated, there is a great interest in sports in general. This, the first exhibition about sports and leisure, was a great accomplishment by the organisers, the sponsors and the Ivoirians.
As you ride through the massive city, you can see people in many different circumstances. Your taxi (if red, metropolitan, which takes you anywhere you want; if of a different colour, it will take you only within the area or neighbourhood) may be a Toyota Corolla of twenty years ago, with a hole where the radio should be, maybe without the turn signal, but the car next to you would be a brand new 4x4.
The national sports stadium, where the national team plays, may look poor from the outside, but the pitch inside would be the envy of a few European clubs. Same thing with the ‘Parc des Sports de Treichville’ (Sports centre of Treichville): a fantastic pitch, even surrounded by a cycle track.
The accomplishment of this first edition of the exhibition cannot be underestimated. Nothing like that has been done before in the country. The limited resources (economic, of communications, of publicity) are obvious, yet the public attended massively to enjoy the activities and sport exhibitions running through the duration of the exhibition, but also the different seminars delivered.
Nearly every national federation attended and had its own stand in the exhibition: football, archery, boxing, judo, golf, tennis, traditional African wresting, athletics, cycling and so forth. The need of this kind of event was evident.
The seminars gave a clear picture of the situation of sports in Ivory Coast. There were talks about Sports and Health, development of sport and leisure in Ivory Coast, Sporting medicine, management in sports centres (academies), sponsor, South Africa 2010, coaching, and of course, Sports Law.
Ivoirians are very hospitable. They take great care of their visitors and are very proud of their football. So in the last day of the exhibition, I had the honour of doing the kick off of the final match of the competition. I was introduced to the officials and then the captains of the teams introduced me to their teams. I was also proud to give the trophy to the winning football team.
During my time there, I had the opportunity to participate in the meeting of the local Law Society and to visit local football clubs.
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Alfonso Valero is co-founder and now consultant of LawInSport.com. He is a dually qualified Abogado (Spanish Lawyer) and Solicitor (England and Wales). He is also a qualified International Arbitrator. He is a Principal Lecturer in Nottingham Trent University.
After beginning his career dealing with dispute resolution in Madrid, he relocated to England developing his work as lawyer in the areas of EU cross-border litigation and Sports Law in Nockolds Solicitors. He has been listed in Global Chambers 2012 as an specialist in Dispute Resolution and Intellectual Property and Marquis Who's Who in the World.