The President of the Paraguayan Football Association, Juan Angel Napout, visited FIFA headquarters in Zurich on 27 February 2009. Accompanied by CONMEBOL Secretary General Eduardo Deluca, Napout met with FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter and FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke to discuss a number of issues relating to the game in Paraguay.
FIFA.com: Mr Napout, what brings you to the Home of FIFA?
Juan Angel Napout: As you'll be aware, on 1 February this year, at the final of the Inter-League Tournament being held at the Estadio Defensores del Chaco, one of the few stadiums in the world to be owned by a national association, there was a structural accident that regretfully took the lives of two on-duty policeman. The Football Association immediately closed the stadium and notified FIFA to request a prompt inspection that will allow us to approve another stadium to host 6 June's South Africa 2010 qualifier between Chile and Paraguay.
On this visit we wanted to ask for FIFA's collaboration and support to enable us to finish the repair work on the Estadio Defensores del Chaco, originally built back in 1917, in a responsible manner. We've brought the President recordings of the accident and of the work that has already begun, as well as images of the project that is going to be carried out. We've also talked about the Goal Project III with a view to it being applied to the restoration and modernization of the Estadio Defensores del Chaco. And to once again request that an alternative stadium be authorized for the day of the qualifier.
Both the President and the Secretary General proved to be exceptionally predisposed to these possibilities, a position we're very thankful for.
Paraguay are currently top of the South American qualifying standings for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. Are you pleased with how results have gone?
We're very satisfied with Gerardo Martino, who is outstanding both as a person and as a professional. We've now got two tough away games in Uruguay and Ecuador (on 28 March and 1 April respectively). We're also very pleased with the results achieved by Adrian Coria, under whom Paraguay finished runners-up at the South American U-20 Championship in Venezuela to qualify for September's World Cup in Egypt. Nor must we forget our women's (U-17) team who played in New Zealand last year or the futsal team at the World Cup held in Brazil. We're now working hard with our (men's) U-17 national team and our beach soccer side ahead of their upcoming qualifiers. So you can safely say Paraguay is very happy with the sporting results its teams are getting.
Would you agree that there is little doubt Paraguayan football is making progress?
Precisely. As I was saying to President Blatter, Paraguay is a small country with a shade over six million inhabitants and a poor infrastructure, but in footballing terms it's a great nation. There's a very high proportion of the population that play football. We've got over 250,000 children between the ages of eight and 14 at football schools. That means that we've got ever greater potential. Football is Paraguay's most important industry, you won't find anywhere in the Republic of Paraguay where they don't play football. The country is 100 per cent football.
How does it feel to be on course to qualify for the next FIFA World Cup, which is the first to be held in Africa?
Paraguay have qualified for every tournament since France 1998 and for that reason we're incredibly excited about the chance to make history and take part in our fourth consecutive finals. It would be fabulous. Besides which, the whole of South America is convinced that South Africa are going to host a great World Cup.