President opens China and Mongolia's Home of Football
© FIFA.com

On 22 September, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter and AFC President Mohamed Bin Hammam had a very special duty to perform as part of the Goal project: the inauguration of the headquarters of the Chinese Football Association (CFA), the 'Home of Football' for the 5,756,093 footballers in the world's most populous country.

It goes without saying therefore that the scope of the Goal project is bigger in China than anywhere else in the world. The CFA headquarters, located in an office building in the heart of Beijing, cost some 4.8 million US dollars and stretches over three floors and 4,600 square metres. Two hundred employees will be employed there for the country's FA, the Chinese Super League and the Local Organising Committee of the 2008 Olympic Football Tournaments.

The FIFA and AFC Presidents along with CFA Vice-President Xie Yalong performed a ceremonial unveiling of a commemorative plaque before visiting the offices. The CFA then hosted an official Chinese banquet dinner.

The ceremony took place at the same time as the quarter-finals of the FIFA Women's World Cup China 2007, a tournament which attracted a great deal of attention throughout the country. And in between the unveiling and the dinner, the two Presidents of course followed the matches on television - along with millions of Chinese football fans.

On the trail of Genghis Khan
A day after the Goal inauguration ceremony in Beijing, the FIFA President and his AFC counterpart travelled on to Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia - one of the few countries the FIFA President had never previously visited. Needless to say, the Mongolian Association were delighted to welcome the their new guests.

In the afternoon, the association organised a traditional Naadam Festival, featuring typical local sporting activities such as wrestling, archery and horse-riding as well as Mongolian folk music and songs. The event, which was concluded with a gala dinner, gave a fascinating insight into the diversity of Mongolian culture, which stretches back as far as the 13th century and the reign of the legendary Genghis Khan.

The following day, there were audiences with the Mongolian Prime Minister, Miyegombo Enkhbold, and the head of state, President Nambar Enkhbayar, who decorated the FIFA and AFC Presidents.

The final event on the programme was the inauguration of the second Mongolian Goal project: the smart new Association headquarters built into a stand with 1,500 seats. Together with the artificial pitch that was the object of the first Goal project in Mongolia, the stand forms a mini-stadium where future domestic and international matches can be held.

Throughout the ceremony, a strong wind was blowing in off the Steppes and picked up when the Presidents took to the field for the laying of the foundation stone for the third Mongolian Goal project: a futsal hall. This will be another meaningful addition to a country where a love of football is managing to overcome extremely harsh weather conditions and in particular the long, cold winters.