A.Ganbaatar: We have a goal to become one of Asia’s top-10 football federations by 2028The Mongol Messenger
Ulaanbaatar /MONTSAME/. Having more member states than the United Nations (193), FIFA (211) is an evidence that the sport of football is one of mankind’s greatest creations.
The only example to prove that is that the World Cup is the most watched sports event on the planet, with twice the number of viewers at the Summer Olympics. It is now 62 years since the establishment of the official football association in Mongolia.
MONTSAME agency met with A.Ganbaatar, Vice President of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and President of the Mongolian Football Federation (MFF), to discuss the current development of Mongolian football, the works being carried out by the federation, and its short- and long-term goals.
-You became the Vice President of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) at its 29th Congress in April 2019 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. There are certainly high criteria for being elected to this responsible position, aren’t there?
-Currently, the AFC has 47 member countries. As for the FIFA, it has 211. Mongolia belongs to East Asia along with 9 other countries including Japan, China, South Korea, etc. or the countries that have achieved world-class football and economic development. The AFC's 2019 Congress elected five vice presidents from five regions of Asia according to its tradition. In the past, Vice presidents were often elected from Japan, South Korea, etc., but that time, a Mongolian was chosen as a Vice President. The reason for this decision was that AFC President told me that I could run for office, emphasizing that I acted equally in all areas of football. In particular, men's and women's football, youth football, grassroots football, and futsal have all reached to certain extent of achievements in Mongolia. Moreover, during that time, more than 10 coaches were trained and received AFC’s coaching license. There is a FIFA-trained international tournament organizer or match commissioner. A citizen of Mongolia with such a title has successfully organized the World Club Championships. At the same time, there are 4-5 Mongolian referees with FIFA rankings, as well as elite Asian referees. We have successfully hosted several major international competitions in our home country. All of these works have allowed me to run for vice president as he explained.
-Apart from these activities, one thing that has enhanced the reputation of the MFF in the last 5 years was to change the internal governance of the association. There are also AFC meetings that was organized in Mongolia and social responsibility activities across the country. Could you elaborate it?
-Yes, AFC and East Asia Football Conference were held in Mongolia. In addition, within the framework of our social responsibility, we have implemented a number of socially beneficial activities in cooperation with the Red Cross Mongolia. We have achieved certain results not only in the development of football, but also in all areas that can be developed in parallel with football.
We have also changed the rules of the MFF. For example, a disciplinary ethics committee and a dispute resolution committee have been established in the legal field. Subsequently, the legal framework for governance was established in accordance with the rules, and a team of professional lawyers was formed. These committees now deal with disciplinary and ethical issues in football. In order to support women's football, a female vice president’s vacancy was created. Representatives of people with disabilities were also included in the Board. Our policies and activities, which are being implemented in a comprehensive manner, are in line with the development goals and objectives of modern football.
As for me, I have worked in the Office of the President of Mongolia for 8 years and have gained understanding and experience in governance. I ran against the president of the Korean Football Association in the election, winning by 28:18.
-How much does your appointment to this high-ranking position and your participation in the development and policy of football on the continent level have an impact on the development of Mongolian football?
-We are actively involved in AFC's development policy. My role is to be a voice and a representative of East Asia within the confederation. Not only Mongolia, but also representing East Asia and leading the way in competitions, policy and development issues. It can be said that the voice and initiative of Mongolians are involved in how to develop football in East Asia and how to develop Asian football. All this participation is also necessary for the development of Mongolian football from afar. We have a match commissioner - S.Jargal who represents Mongolia. In addition, there are also opportunities being opened up for Mongolian to work in AFC committees. For instance, D.Terbaatar and Ch.Munkhzul work for the Asian Football Committee's social responsibility and development policy committee. There is a Mongolian financier and lawyer on the East Asia Finance and Legal Committee, and the head of the MFF's marketing is on the marketing committee. In this way, Mongolians have the opportunity to work for the development of football in the region.
-As the Vice President of AFC, what other responsibilities do you have besides being in charge of East Asia?
-The vice president chairs one committee. I was appointed as the Chairman of AFC's Media and Relations Committee. The reason why I chaired this committee was that the association found out from my resume that I was a journalist. Our committee plays a key role in promoting the Asian Football Confederation. Nowadays, people have tendency to watch long news on social media unless it's some kind of a competition. However, short clips and news broadcasts of 35- 45 seconds are more popular. It has become clear that the more short and concise news is, the clearer, easier and more accessible it is to people.
-As the Vice President of AFC, you must have
more opportunities to interact with FIFA and other continents such as Europe
and the United States. It will also affect the development of domestic
football. For example, since 2016, many children from Mongolia have been
studying in Europe at the Puskas Academy in Hungary. I assume that there are
many ways to expand such a relations with other countries.
-I would like to say one thing that should be remembered. The Prime Minister of Hungary visited Mongolia during the time of former President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj. Later, during his visit to Hungary, President Elbegdorj signed a formal agreement and held talks with Hungarian President on two matters. One was about football and the other was about water. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán loves football so much. Ferenc Puskas is a famous Hungarian athlete who founded the Puskas Academy in his hometown. President Elbegdorj introduced me as the President of the MFA and asked him to take Mongolian children to the academy. So I took up the matter, first sending four children, then two, and then 10 children to Puskas Academy. They were taught football in Hungarian and English, and specialized in European football.
Now they are all playing for the national team in the national league. One of them - G.Ganbayar remained in the Hungarian second division and then recruited in the higher division team. The fact that a Mongolian started playing in Europe within four years proves that Mongolians have potential to achieve more. This proud example has inspired many Mongolian children. Many children want to follow his footsteps to join Puskas. We continue to expand our ties with other countries and international associations. For example, the MFF cooperates with UEFA or Union of European Football Associations, and receives funding from it. The UEFA and the Football Association of England support the MFF by donating football flags, gates and clothing to rural areas. It also covers the cost of organizing local trainings and sending teachers and specialists to work there.
-The President of FIFA said that he will support the construction of an indoor football stadium. Could you elaborate this?
-FIFA President Gianni Infantino visited Mongolia in 2019 and attended the opening ceremony of the 115 m x 85 m Class A football field built in Yarmag. The opening ceremony was also attended by the President of Mongolia Kh.Battulga. At the time, President Gianni Infantino said he would link the MFF to the world's top associations. That's how we got in touch with the Football Association of England. During his visit, President Gianni Infantino talked to the President of Mongolia about cooperation in the construction of an indoor stadium. As the winter season in Mongolia lasts for 6 months, athletes are forced to take a long break from football. So, compared to those who play football all year round, it is obvious for Mongolian athletes to constantly lose form and regime of training, which directly affects the performance.
The AFC provides a total of USD 100,000 for the annual salaries of a Tunisian and a Slovak specialists working for our association. It is impossible for us to hire a specialist with such an amount. In this way, the MFF has many advantages and Mongolian football is on a bright path to the future. Bringing German, Romanian, Tunisian and Slovak football specialists to Mongolia is also a great addition to the development, opening up opportunities for faster development to our future generations.
-The skills of Mongolian athletes are growing due to all these factors. How do you see the near future?
-When our team played against Japan, I felt that the skills of Mongolians were growing. Our team lost to Japanese team with 6-0. We set a goal to score a goal when they arrive Mongolia for our next match. Japan is the second strongest team in Asia. Although we are ranked behind them by more than 100 places, we put up a pretty good fight. We also invited the African team to play at home twice. I saw and knew that our team could play with anyone. Our development policies and activities are going into the good direction.
The MFF is training its female football players under the supervision of a Japanese coach. Today, the prize pool of the Mongolian Football League is the highest in domestic sports or MNT 200 million. Each team that plays in the league wins a prize. A new generation has emerged in our football. Adolescents and young people are becoming very talented and many children are being born to break the ice. We play in the World Cup qualifiers. Money is no longer an issue. FIFA has increased the number of countries participating in the World Cup to 48 from 2026. Therefore, the number and quota of countries from Asia will increase. For us, women's football has become more successful than men's. Mongolian football has a great potential to develop and prosper. Our futsal team is ranked No. 1 in East Asia and No. 5 in Asia. Having a good professional coach and referee will develop the sport faster. We have four FIFA referees and one Asian elite referee. We didn't have an Asian A-level coach, but we recently trained and graduated 16 people. Now there is a goal to have a professional pro-coach. Our reputation in Asia is constantly growing.
One of our main goals is to become one of the top-10 Asian federations by 2028. We are in 40s in Asian rakings today. Our association cooperates with the Chinese Football Association. With their help, a football coaching class has been opened at the Mongolian State University of Education, and the Chinese Football Association is covering the expenses for the training of teachers and students. We are also training our national team in the winter in China.