Former Mali international striker, Freddie Kanoute, has called for football in Mali to be “reshaped” in a bid to rejuvenate the sport in the country.
Mali’s Football Federation is currently managed by a Fifa-appointed normalisation committee, and Kanoute said a restructuring is needed for Mali to qualify for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
“Obviously we have to reshape Malian football and the Malian organisation,” Kanoute told BBC Sport.
“There was a crisis in the federation, and we have to reshape football.
“I would say personally of course, we want to be qualified in all the competitions but the most important thing is to really see the long term.
“If we went through this crisis, we have to believe it is for a reason and so it also has to be an opportunity to change many, many things and to develop football from the bottom up in Mali to make sure that we have sustainable and successful football,” said Kanoute, who scored 23 goals in 38 Mali appearances after opting to play for the Eagles over France.
Mali are currently in Group C of qualifying for the 2019 Nations Cup, alongside Burundi, Gabon and South Sudan.
Kanoute, 40, spent seven successful years in Spain with Sevilla after playing for Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United in the English Premier League.
He then moved to China’s Beijing Guoan and now runs his own sports management company whilst also building on the work of his foundation to help to improve grassroots football in Mali.
“That is really what I want to advocate; training at grassroots, training on the development of youth in football and that’s why with my new company we also support and advise some youth academies in Africa to help them develop, train good players and also to become more professional as clubs, as academies etc.
“As I said, develop the leagues, it gives more opportunities to more talented players in Africa, more platforms for them, more exposure and more opportunities of jobs,” Kanoute added.
Kanoute also urged footballers to look beyond Europe when considering their playing careers.
DR Congo’s Cedric Bakambu finally joined Kanoute’s former club Beijing Guoan this month, becoming Africa’s most expensive player, and Kanoute says Chinese football has many advantages.
“I have played there and the level is not so bad. It’s good, it’s competitive, the stadiums are full most of the time. So it is really, really interesting to play there.
“Who has said that the only place we have to play football is in Europe? I advocate for developing leagues everywhere – even in Africa. That will change the whole picture of football.
“We have to develop leagues everywhere to give means to everybody; the authorities and the football governing bodies, to develop real, real leagues so it will allow football to be a little bit more equal.”