Interview with our CEO, JF Cecillon, one month after the launch of AFDP Global


It’s one month since the AFDP Global was launched at the Emirates Stadium – what are your reflections on month one?

It has been a very exciting and busy period since the launch. We have been approached by many organisations from different parts of the world and we are making great progress in identifying our next partners. There are some amazing organisations out there, doing incredible work, and we are looking at where we can add real value.

You witnessed football projects run by AFDP before it became AFDP Global. Will AFDP Global operate in a similar way in future?

Prince Ali’s AFDP is our heritage. His Royal Highness wants to build on that and take the project global. Working globally is very different. Diverse contexts have different needs and the mechanics of how we work must be flexible. The spirit of our work remains the same – we want to unite and transform communities – but to achieve this globally, we have extended our vision and reformulated and strengthened our mission and values. Social impact, partnerships and sustainability are the three pillars that will guide our day to day decisions.

Your professional background is as a business leader. Is running a social enterprise very different to running a business?

A social enterprise is a business. AFDP Global is not a charity or an NGO. We are starting a social fund to invest in Joint Venture programmes that we will develop together with our partners, including NGOs, corporate entities, charities, global operators and institutions. The numbers need to balance, the reporting must be transparent and the governance has to be effective. My career in the games and music industries means I am experienced in global marketing and know what it takes to reach audiences worldwide. My work with the Nelson Mandela Foundation has shown me the vast potential of CSR. AFDP Global brings together all these elements, making this a very exciting venture.

It seems that Nelson Mandela and working with him was a major inspiration in your life. Can you tell us more about this?

I had the privilege to be asked by Madiba to produce the first mega-concert ever staged in Africa, which took place in Cape Town in November 2003. The mission was to create maximum awareness of the massive damage inflicted by the AIDS pandemic in Africa. Madiba recognised that harnessing the power and reach of music was key to raising awareness. We invited over 30 global artists to perform and the show was watched by 2 billion people worldwide. Madiba had the vision and the drive to make this concert a reality and that inspired me immensely. Following the concert, my wife and I were invited by Madiba to share two days with him in his home. This was one of the greatest moments of my life. Talking to him face to face was magical and an experience that is hard to put into words.

You clearly believe in football as a means to achieve social impact and have talked about football’s ‘unique potential’ to bring people together. Why do you think football is special in this way?

It is impossible to know how many people play and watch football every week around the world. Whether it’s 2 billion or 3 billion, the numbers are startling. Football unites generations. Today, every child dreams of being Ronaldo, Zidane or Messi and their parents dreamed of being Maradona, Cruyff or Pele. When you’re on the pitch, there’s no religion, race, gender or social status. It’s 11 individuals playing together as a team, respecting the rules and wanting to win. No spoken language is required. Football is the language that unites communities, transforms human beings and builds lasting friendships. This for me is why football is rightly called the beautiful game.

At AFDP Global’s launch, you announced that AFDP Global will be supporting the expansion of WarChild FC. Can you tell us why, as CEO, you chose WarChild FC as your first new partnership?

Warchild has very strong values. In line with the vision of His Royal Highness and the AFDP Global team, they understand that football is a powerful tool for providing education and psychological support. As with our current projects, they operate in extreme environments where children need to rebuild their hopes for the future. We know that WarChild operates with the highest ethical standards and so together we will be able to develop projects that really matter.

What are your hopes for the future of AFDP Global?

I want to take Prince Ali’s vision to the highest level globally. In order to achieve that, AFDP Global will need to join forces with partners on all continents to build programmes for children, both boys and girls, and young adults. At the same time, we care deeply about fundamental issues in the global game and want to be a real force of influence, helping football to rid itself of its dark side and become an example of what sport can achieve. We want football to be accessible to everyone and we care about how the game is played and how players are respected. Our dream is for AFDP Global to become the global enabler of many local NGOs, corporate organisations and global institutions, helping them to deliver projects that have an impact over generations. This work will only strengthen our voice as we speak out on issues that need to be addressed in global football.