FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter made a lightning visit to the Czech capital of Prague on Monday. There, accompanied by Pavel Mokry, president of the Czech Football Association, he met with Czech President Vaclav Klaus and a number of other political figures from the country, which currently holds the Presidency of the European Union.
Blatter's first engagement on his short but highly productive visit was a 3pm meeting with President Klaus, who has been head of state for the last six years following his election in February 2003 and subsequent re-election 12 months ago.
The men exchanged views on a variety of different topics, the most important of which was undoubtedly the independence of sport. "I asked Vaclav Klaus, whose country holds the EU Presidency at the moment, to impress upon his European colleagues the need for sport to be allowed to regulate itself," commented President Blatter. "The message was positively received by all the people I met today in Czech Republic," he added. It is a message that Joseph S. Blatter also put across to Europe's sports ministers at a meeting in Biarritz last November.
I asked Vaclav Klaus, whose country holds the EU Presidency at the moment, to impress upon his European colleagues the need for sport to be allowed to regulate itself.
One hour later the President of world football's governing body met with Czech Sports and Education Minister Ondrej Liska and then with Miloslav Vlcek, President of the Czech Chamber of Deputies, which has just approved the Treaty of Lisbon. They discussed a number of other subjects such as "6+5", the training of young players, stadium security, the impact of the economic crisis on the game, and also the fight against doping.
"Football has a vital part to play in people's lives," said President Blatter at a press conference following his rapid round of meetings. "It provides excitement, and in a world such as ours, which is in the midst of a profound crisis, that is exactly what everyone needs."
The FIFA President's next visit abroad will take him to Northern Ireland for the Annual General Meeting of the International Football Association Board (IFAB), which takes place from 27 February to 1 March.