Alumni Interview, Fifa Master | Solomon Mudege, Fifa 

(Harold Cunningham/FIFA)
(Harold Cunningham/FIFA)
  • Contract lecturer, Human Movement Science Department, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University – Jan ‘06 – Aug ‘09 
  • Marketing consultant, Eastern Cape Academy of Sport – May ‘07 – Aug ‘09 
  • FIFA Master – International MA in Management, Law and Humanities of Sport – ‘09 -’10 
  • FIFA Master trainee, FIFA – Sep ‘10- Aug ‘11 
  • Various roles, FIFA, Aug ‘11-present, most recently, head of development programmes, Africa – Jun ‘22 – 

Can you explain what drove your decision to enrol on the course? 

I was in South Africa at the time and had just completed the CIES international university network course in South Africa. I then applied to enrol on the FIFA Master – it was actually the second time I had applied – I became the first person to enrol on the course from the CIES global network of international courses and this has since become an established pathway.  

In terms of what I was looking to achieve, I had studied and gained some experience in South Africa and knew how things were done there and in my home country of Zimbabwe but I really wanted to add a global outlook and understand the benchmark standards of working around the work. I wanted to understand the best standards in football around the world and ultimately use this if I should come back to work in South Africa and Zimbabwe.  

Can you outline some of the most influential aspects of your time on the course? 

What went over the academic element was the integration with the sports industry itself – the opportunity to go to Wimbledon, to Lord’s, to talk to the Professional Footballers Association and to go to see visit Bolton Wanderers, who were in the Premier League at that time. Something that really stuck out was that they had integrated a hotel within their stadium. The concept of people coming for match day and then sleeping at the stadium at the club’s own hotel was something new and quite exciting to see how things were done at that level. Then ultimately coming to the course’s base in Switzerland, where a lot of the big international federations are based, that was really what I was looking for as a touchpoint with how sport really works at the highest level and how I could aspire to be involved in these organisations. 

The close proximity of the course to the sports industry was also valuable in regards to the people we were able to interact with. I’ll always remember my favourite lecture was one that didn’t happen initially. One of the speakers was a lawyer who was going to come in and present to us on a Thursday but he had to delay because one of the players for the club he represented had got a red card in a recent match. He had to cancel to go and represent the player during the disciplinary procedure. I remember thinking that while it was a shame he wasn’t there, the reason he wasn’t was exactly why it would be so interesting to speak to him when the talk ultimately did happen. 

Following completion of the course, you moved straight onto the FIFA Master Trainee programme. How did this come about? 

My cohort was the tenth edition of the course and Fifa had announced that as of the ninth edition, an opportunity would be granted to one student to embark on an internship at Fifa. It was a rotational internship, working across different divisions, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to understand how different areas of FIFA work and gain a great insight into how the organisation as a whole was run. No matter whether I ended up staying on at Fifa or moving elsewhere following the conclusion of the internship, this was going to be really beneficial to my career.  

I was ultimately successful in my application for the internship and it was a hugely positive experience. I ended up working with other FIFA Master alumni in each division, so they were really supportive for me throughout. What I particularly enjoyed about it was the fact that it was recognised that I had a voice and a significant experience in my home country, which meant I could make a tangible contribution and feel like I was a valued member of the team. This was quite beneficial in terms of becoming more confident across the different roles I occupied. 

Towards the end of the internship, I was made aware of a marketing alliances manager position that was available within Fifa, which felt like an excellent fit for me. I took on this role and have never left Fifa since.  What’s particularly pleasing is to see how the internship programme has developed since it was launched with the FIFA Master cohort I was a part of. I believe there’s now around five interns each year who join FIFA following completion of the course.

Some of your recent work has included working as part of the Qatar 2022 World Cup team, as a marketing manager for one of the stadiums used during the tournament? What are your reflections on that experience?  

I had previously worked on the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada. The idea behind this type of secondment is to support our member associations with the hosting of these major events. I found Qatar a particularly fulfilling experience in terms of making new connections and also having the opportunity to invite some of our member associations in Africa to the event. I’m usually working with some of these people on projects in Africa and now you’re able to have a scenario where they are at a World Cup and I’m in charge of marketing for a stadium. This provides the opportunity to demonstrate examples of how things are done at the top level of event hosting, which ultimately could be implemented for their national team matches or domestic league. 

To finish up, can you discuss your current role and highlight any particular projects you may be working on?  

I’m currently involved in the operational delivery of The FIFA Forward programme. This is focused on providing development funding to our member associations in Africa. It’s varied work, because each member association has different priorities. For example, in terms of countries that participated in the recent Women’s World Cup, FIFA Forward provided funding to Morocco for the purpose of professionalising its women’s football leagues and contributing to the association’s own ongoing initiatives to develop women’s football in the country.  

We were also recently in South Africa as they announced their bid to host the 2027 Women’s World Cup and their own desire to professionalise women’s football in the country. We were there to support them in agreeing their objectives around the development of the women’s game in the country and over time we’ll be assisting with the achievement of those objectives.  

With Zambia, prior to the qualification of its women’s team for the world cup, we ran a project to provide funding to the Zambian national team to participate in its first ever Olympic Games in Tokyo. The team then proceeded to qualify for the 2023 World Cup and we help provide the necessary to facilitate their participation.  

In addition, there is an acceptance that progression is needed in Africa with regards to higher quality infrastructure to ultimately make football safer and more appealing in terms of what is available within a stadium. So, FIFA Forward is working with the South Sudan Football Association to build its first ever international standard football stadium according to CAF standards. That’s a long-term project that we’re really excited about as a team.