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Saturday, March 25, 2023

We have broken with an image of continuity

Escaldes-EngordanyFèlix Álvarez, just under four years ago, was elected president of the Andorran Football Federation. The former player became the fifth president of the federative body. Now, when he is still in the last six months of his mandate, Álvarez has received ANA Esports in his office, in order to take stock of the management at the head of the FAF.

President, what balance does he make of his mandate?

— I am happy with the work that has been done. They have been complex years, no one escapes it; we have passed the pandemic and had to reinvent ourselves and change some of the ideas from the beginning. In addition, we came from a complicated start due to the court cases that were there. But, in general, I am happy, because despite everything, things have been done. For example, in terms of works, we finished the Massana, we started Encamp, we improved the Borda Mateu with changing rooms and car parks, also the Sant Ermengol facilities and a reform of the Alàs field. I think we did a good job.

What other changes have been made in these years?

— The League has evolved very quickly and we have had to adapt. Next year there will be 10 teams in the first place, after the decision of the clubs. Also in terms of grassroots football, where we are competing at under 15 and under 16 levels. And women’s football, which this year we will do everything possible to compete in UEFA competitions. Without forgetting the refereeing that this year we will have two international referees and up to five assistants.

And in the absolute selection?

— It is the first degree of the FAF. He bet very strongly to make an improvement in the technical team and the results and they are. We’ve been improving, little by little, and we’ve gone from thinking about how many goals we’d score to competing one-on-one. We have been recognized for this at the UEFA and FIFA congresses and this type of recognition comforts and encourages you to continue.

Do you think they have been able to change the image, rather negative, that was there?

— Honestly, I think the image has never been bad. It is true that there is still an open case and I do not know how it will end if in the end it will be determined that there was something wrong done. What we did want to do is break with a continuity image, propose new things, modify others and evolve. Everything has been very fast, but we tried to apply our ideas.

Why are they building the Encamp stadium?

— We have detected that there is a lack of infrastructure for the teams. We see it when we have to square the training hours that each club needs. That is why we have decided to go ahead with a stadium, even if it is small, that can help us perform these functions. And we did it alone, because we saw that there was not much definition neither in FC Andorra nor in the community. Despite everything, we will have to see how the Prada de Moles area looks in the end. What we, as FAF, were clear about is that we would push ahead with the infrastructure, which can host international matches and with an audience of around 2,500 people.

And the National?

— It will be necessary to see how the situation with FC Andorra is. The truth is that, personally, I have a little regret that we found out that they would not do Prada de Moles through the press. I think they or the common could have warned us. But at the National Stadium we want to continue playing international matches there, especially the bigger ones where the stands are filled. We are aware that there are others that we have not been able to fill and that these could perhaps be contested in Encamp. In addition, sometimes the opportunity to do international competitions arises, and we always had the same obstacle, the lack of facilities. In 22 months, which is when we expect it to be finished, we will no longer have this reef.

Do you think the selection is living the best moment in history?

— In the field of results, yes. But I want to emphasize that all the moments we have experienced are historic for the country’s football. From the foundation of the FAF, to the first matches or the first victory. In addition, we have been able to adapt very well to the new times and are competing and achieving very good results.

Is the ENFAF clubs project fully consolidated?

– Certainly. It is a project that is focused on allowing the players to pick up more competitive pace, going out to play outside the country, in Catalan competitions. This suits us very well, because then, when they jump to the national team, they already have this much more competitive rhythm and it gives them a plus. This does not mean that we devalue the internal league. All the clubs do a great job in recruiting new players, and after these there are quite a few who jump to ENFAF.

How do you see the growth of the League with the entry of foreign capital?

— Everything that is economic growth, will help us grow in sport and strengthen the league. So, if groups come to invest and are serious, welcome. There may be a downside to this bringing in more players from outside the country. But we also have to think that there are many young people who have to go outside to play because of studies or work. We have to find the formula to find the balance in this regard.

Are they worried that there are few domestic players?

— It is an acceptable concern. As I told you, there is a part that goes abroad for studies or work. But we must also think that the economic growth will bring better conditions for the players who also want to stay here or who, once their studies are finished, want to return. I am convinced that this will all balance out in the short term.

Are you worried that there are cases like Sant Julià or Engordany in the League?

— Yes, obviously. In the end, our league is the image we give outside of Andorran football. What we, as a federation, try to do is to instill in the clubs the fact of having good governance, as required of us by UEFA and FIFA. With a good, more professional administration, these cases would not have happened. We must think that, if everything grows, the clubs must also professionalize their management models.

Can the second division be diluted between subsidiaries with the expansion of the first?

— I’m sure not. The decision of the first expansion was of the clubs. Now, what we will have is a more professional competition and another that will be able to accommodate those footballers who want to stay and play, but without such a high degree of demand, more like a hobby. I think it can go towards this, the second, towards a more amateur football.

Where they have made a leap forward is with arbitration.

— We got more representation. When we talk to other federations similar to us, such as Gibraltar or San Marino, they ask us how we did it, how we worked to achieve this second international referee. Before, a few years ago, it was the other way around, we were the ones who asked for it.

To make the jump to official competitions, do they prepare a structure for women similar to that of men?

— We are working on it. It won’t be quite the same, because despite the fact that women’s football has evolved a lot, there is still a long way to go. We believe in it. And that’s why we hired an ambassador, to help us recruit in schools, because we’ve always had the handicap of having few female players. But between that, and the effect of Barça and the Champions League, more and more girls want to play football. And our job is precisely this, to offer them this place where they can play, have excitement and have fun. There’s still a way to go, but I’m sure we’ll get there.

What is the futsal situation?

— We are a winter country, and futsal is deeply rooted in our home. You only have to look at the last matches against Turkey, where we gave a very good image. We have shown that we can be very competitive against teams that are 20 or 30 times bigger than us.

Will beach soccer return?

– Not at the moment. The Catalan federation has raised it with us, but, at the moment, we do not have it in our plans. We don’t have a facility to practice it either.

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