Representatives of the government of Laos visited the Home of FIFA on Tuesday to present the FIFA President with a Friendship Medal in recognition of his support for football development within the country.

Laos’s Ambassador to Switzerland, Yong Chanthalangsy, presented the medal to President Joseph S. Blatter during a ceremony at FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich. “Following the visit of a FIFA delegation to Laos in March, the Minister of Sports suggested to the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Laos that a Friendship Medal be awarded to President Blatter,” he explained. “This is for his support of sport in general and football in particular through assistance in both technical and material terms. The President of the Republic agreed and asked me to organise this medal presentation with ‘honour and dignity’.”

The ceremony itself was a solemn affair, during which the Ambassador pinned the medal to the FIFA President’s lapel. Afterwards, Mr Blatter said he was “very honoured and touched that the head of state of Laos has awarded me this Friendship Medal”. He then added: “What is more precious than friendship? There is an old French saying which sums it up very well: ‘Take time to be with your friends or time will take your friends away.’”

Ten years and four Goal projects
The President of the Football Association of Laos, Viphet Sihachakr, was likewise present and emphasised that FIFA’s support is by no means a new phenomenon. The first Goal project, which provided the country with a training centre and pitches, was approved in 2001 and inaugurated in 2002.

“FIFA has been helping Laos for a long time,” explained Mr Sihachakr. “We have already benefited from four Goal projects, which have made it possible for us to build a remarkable complex in Vientiane, the capital. We now possess a fully operational technical centre, a headquarters that includes a Futsal gym and another technical centre dedicated to women’s football.”

The fourth Goal project will lead to the construction of an artificial pitch. “It will be the first of its kind in Laos,” said Mr Sihachakr. “It’s very important because it’s a pitch we’ll be able to use more often than a natural one, and a pitch that won’t be vulnerable to bad weather.”

Laos is also due to host a FIFA seminar for the secretary generals of ASEAN (South-east Asian) member associations next month, which will be followed by the ASEAN Women’s Football Championship.

“Laos may not be the biggest football nation but it’s one which carries out a large amount of development work, as I got to see for myself in March,” said President Blatter, praising the country’s boundless energy and enthusiasm for the sport. “I ask you to thank the head of state on my behalf and on the behalf of FIFA, and also to pay him my compliments.”