Former FIFA presidential candidate Prince Ali is taking his charity project worldwide to build on its work of bringing soccer to Syrian refugees in Jordan.
The prince detailed plans Tuesday for the Association Football Development Program Global to fund projects, donate equipment and provide expert management at a launch at Arsenal’s home stadium in London.
The NGO’s partners include War Child UK, which helps former child soldiers in Africa, the UEFA Foundation for Children, streetfootballworld and the Spanish league.
The prince’s original focus was in Asia, with funding from FIFA payments as a member of its executive committee from 2011-15. He decided to go global after meeting soccer officials on his FIFA election campaigns in 2015 and ’16.
“I realized you could really broaden the work to the entire world where there are so many similar challenges,” Prince Ali told The Associated Press in a telephone interview ahead of the launch event.
Central Africa is a target with the War Child Football Club project aiming to kick off in seven countries with help from AFDP Global.
Prince Ali said he is open to working with professional clubs who can apply to partner on projects.
“We are not going to limit ourselves to anything,” he said. “There is absolutely no politics involved. And it’s not limited to any place — it could be a project with inner-city kids in the U.K.”
The Zaatari refugee camp of 80,000 people displaced from Syria has been the program’s core work with 5,000 children now playing soccer, including on a field for girls opened in recent weeks.
“It’s an unfortunate situation but I’m very proud of what it has become,” said Prince Ali, who has no immediate plans to work with FIFA.
“We want to work independently but if we are asked to, then sure,” he said. “Any work we do has to be really physically tangible on the ground.”
UEFA has supported the Zaatari camp, and its president, Aleksander Ceferin, praised AFDP for “giving these children opportunities that they otherwise would not have had.”
After losing FIFA elections first against Sepp Blatter and then in a five-candidate contest won by Gianni Infantino, Prince Ali does not expect to try a third time.
“My focus is on this project,” said the Jordanian soccer federation president, who also heads the West Asian group of FIFA member federations.