Exclusive interview with former Confederation of African Football refereeing manager Eddie Maillet |21 September 2023
‘We need football people in charge of football’
Well-known Seychellois referee Eddie Maillet who reached great heights in football as an official, including being the head of the refereeing commission of the Confederation of African Football, has expressed his concern regarding the level of football and its development in Seychelles.
Maillet would like to offer his service and expertise, precisely in leading the sport’s local governing body, bringing in a new vision, if the opportunity arises at next year’s election of the Seychelles Football Federation (SFF) executive committee.
In an exclusive interview with Sports NATION, the former Confederation of African Football (Caf) referee boss mentioned that he is keen to offer his service in a leadership role at the SFF, stepping onto the scene as a candidate for the post of president.
Upon his return to the country eight months ago, Maillet has met with some prominent coaches, management of different clubs, spectators who acknowledge that there is a problem with our football today, especially with the atmosphere of the game.
Maillet is not a stranger to the SFF, having spent 10 years working for the federation, aside of his international duties as a referee and Caf referee boss
Sports NATION: In your views what does the SFF lack?
Eddie Maillet: Firstly, I believe that football people should be in charge of football, while there is a need for projects and also assistance to football clubs. We definitely need to increase the volume of training of our national team and aim to re-restructure towards semi-professionalism.
Today, the current federation has more resources to complete these tasks than before. Another thing that we need to do is provide more education in terms of administration, for example to our referees and coaches, and we need to have a good recruitment system to identify and nurture talents.
It will take a lot of effort as it is a big project, but I believe there is a need to adopt changes in our approach to tackle those issues.
Sports NATION: Do you think you have what it takes to be a candidate?
Eddie Maillet: As a player, I played in Seychelles’ top division with Plaisance, and I have officiated at one World Cup and five African Cup of Nations (Can) as an international referee and worked at six Can competitions as director of refereeing. I believe I have the necessary baggage and experience to deliver as the leader of the SFF, with the principle of recruiting football people to work with football. I am placing myself forward to offer my services and share my expertise with the aim of bringing about results. I have done my research to see if I can offer my services and contribute in a leadership role.
Sports NATION: What changes are you thinking of?
Eddie Maillet: First of all, we need to return the power into the hands of football clubs. It is the clubs who own the federation not vice-versa. In the statute of the federation, it is written that the football clubs vote for a leader and the statute is our constitution which the federation uses as a guide to execute its principles, rules and objectives. These include creating a more competitive league and providing support for the clubs with the resources disbursed. The federation also needs to be more open and transparent.
Sports NATION: What must be done then?
Eddie Maillet: Our local competition needs to be reinforced and organised at a higher level. We also need to bring fans and technology and create an atmosphere that is professionally adequate, making it easier to request support from international institutions. We have to move forward in a more structured way for the sport we adore to evolve, while rallying all the people who are in football to work together. A strong and solid team behind the president is also required.
I believe that the football federation should move towards focusing on structuring the clubs and concentrate on implementing a good structure for coaching also. Projects such as these need everybody’s involvement, where as a group we can decide on matters and work to reinforce support for the local clubs, since little effort is being made nowadays.
I am not talking about only financial means. They can help football clubs with other basic means such as boots, shin guards and other equipment. Such donations were made in the past with fewer resources available and today, I believe the federation has more resources and means to do much more.
Sports NATION: Can Seychelles football reach semi-professional level?
Eddie Maillet: As we all know in Seychelles there is a financial setback which puts a lot of football clubs at a disadvantage, including our national team.
Firstly, the intensity of local competition must increase and selected players should have more training hours.
Professionalism is not just about the monetary aspect, but we must also have the correct approach inside of us, and the love for the sport. A lot of money can be injected in the game, but if we do not possess the appropriate structure we would not reach our goal in developing our football.
With a better structure for the youths, including academy, talent identification programme, and proper guidelines on tests and training continuity, we will definitely raise the level of local competitions.
We must also have the willingness and passion to drive forward to take another step in that direction.
Sports NATION: How can we develop our national team?
Eddie Maillet: We need to have a system to monitor the youths at the age of 12 to 16. We have to set up a good base from these ages and there must be physical, as well as psychology tests with experts in these domains who can identify if someone has the character to be part of a national team. It is true that we do not have a large pool of players to work with, but we can climb at a respective level within the region at least.
Today we cannot even compete in the region due to the low level of our football.
Sports NATION: Do you think the players are insured and how do you see the players’ mentality?
Eddie Maillet: I believe that players’ insurance should be part of the federation’s responsibilities. There has to be a basic insurance to cover the players, of course at a fair rate, whereby the players would have a sense of security which might push them to perform more, boosting their dedication towards the game.
In terms of training, today what we are doing is not far from mass sport and the mentality and discipline of the players need to change as well.
Sports NATION: How can football infrastructure influence the atmosphere of the sport?
Eddie Maillet: If we can decentralise our football, while maintaining the facilities in place, we can, in future reach the stage where we would see spectators gathering in big numbers around the different facilities around the country, further creating the sense of home and away games.
We do not need major infrastructure to accommodate the spectators. During my time with the federation, in season breaks, the operation section focused on repairing lights at the facilities.
On Praslin, I am aware of the poor condition of the pitch which has significantly degraded, and we cannot compromise on the pitch’s life span of eight years, and prolong its usage.
Players’ wellbeing must be a priority, and today, looking at the conditions of the different football facilities, it is obvious that there has been some negligence.
Sports NATION: What is your football experience?
Eddie Maillet: Since 1988 I played first division football here and then I moved into refereeing as a local official. In 2001, I embarked on my international journey as an international referee until 2012. At the end of 2012, I started working with the Confederation of African Football (Caf) as head of the refereeing commission. Currently, I am doing some consultancy work.
Sports NATION: Are you currently involved in local football?
Eddie Maillet: I am a member of the Beau Vallon football club management team. It is sad to say that we lack support from the community. I am urging businesses to bring their support to the team.
We have sent letters to different big hotel chains in the country and have received little feedback, while we are also not getting the support of the SFF. We, however, acknowledge the efforts of the National Sports Council (NSC) for maintaining some of the fields and its facilities.
Compiled by Neil Sirame