FIFA and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are hoping to expand their existing partnership to cover climate change and gender equality in the future. The two organisations signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Bangkok, in November 2019, where they committed to join forces to leverage football as a catalyst for social development and healthy lifestyles in the region, and are now looking to extend it beyond 2024.
During the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Sports (SOMS-14), held in Chiang Mai, Thailand, FIFA Regional Director Asia & Oceania Sanjeevan Balasingam outlined the main achievements since 2019 and also the new areas that could be incorporated when the MoU comes up for renewal.
"In today's world, which is so divided, football unites the world. In this amazing region, it is extremely important for FIFA, as football's governing body, to work closely with ASEAN to ensure that football is a tool for unity," Mr Balasingam told the meeting. "Also, as a person from the region, the cause is close to my heart and FIFA looks to continue this strong collaboration with ASEAN."
Dr. Niwat Limsuknirun, Chair of SOMS-14, said: “I personally think that it could be beneficial to prioritise discussions on gender equality and climate change for inclusion in the next phase of ASEAN-FIFA MoU.
"This is particularly relevant for the ASEAN Sports Community and presents an opportunity to address global concerns. We will consult the relevant parties to seek advice regarding the possible renewal of the MOU and the expected new priorities,” added Dr Limsuknirum, who is Director General of the Department of Physical Education of Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports.
Education has been one of the key areas of co-operation and nine of the 10 ASEAN member states - Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam - have signed up, or are in the process of signing up, for FIFA's Football For Schools program.
So far, 1,780,544 children have enrolled in the programme in ASEAN member states and 82,240 footballs have been distributed. From 2024 onwards, FIFA hopes that all 10 member states will be involved.
Health has been another focus. During the pandemic, FIFA and ASEAN collaborated on COVID-19 awareness-raising campaigns and the #FiveSteps programme which provided practical tips for citizens of ASEAN countries to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Meanwhile, the #BeActive campaign has promoted healthy lifestyles for all.
Sports integrity has been promoted, particularly anti-match manipulation where the translation of the FIFA Integrity e-Learning Tutorial into ASEAN languages (Malay, Khmer, Indonesian, Lao, Burmese, Thai and Vietnamese) has enhanced learning opportunities across the region.
For the renewal of the MoU, FIFA hopes to build on the success of the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ and have a gender equality as a new area on its own.
FIFA would also like to join forces with ASEAN to take proactive measures to mitigate the impact of climate change through football. Measures would include raising awareness on climate change, a focus on climate-proof sport infrastructure and climate resilient football development.
The FIFA U17 World Cup 2023™ will be hosted in the ASEAN region when it takes place in Indonesia in November and December, and a workshop will be organised on the sidelines of the tournament with the framework of the MoU. The workshop will cover safe sport, the promotion of sport integrity, stadium safety and security plus updates on Football For Schools.