In South Africa to attend the FIFA Confederations Cup, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter and the General Secretary of world football's governing body Jerome Valcke chaired a round table with journalists from South Africa and around the globe in Johannesburg on Monday 22 June. On the agenda was the tournament itself, the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, the African continent and football's role in society. FIFA.com brings you what both men had to say on these topics and more.
FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter
On football's role outside sport
We will be organising anti-discrimination days for the semi-finals. And the Football For Hope Forum will be getting underway on Tuesday. The Forum is a very significant event and will discuss the contribution the game can make to social development through education and health for example.
On the issue of health in football
I can announce today that we are going to pay tribute to Marc-Vivien Foe, who died six years ago on that very sad day, June 26, in France. At the final a message will be read out in his honour before the kick-off. We have learned from that terrible event, however, and the issue of heart problems is something we take very seriously now. We carried out tests on eight teams at the recent U-17 World Cup qualifiers in Africa and we discovered that over 60 per cent of those children had never seen a doctor before. We also found that a Namibian player had a heart problem. He was treated and now he is back playing again.
On the FIFA World Cup in Africa
You have to put solidarity into action by doing something specific. It's not just about words. I have been at FIFA for 34 years now and in that time African countries have always bid to host the World Cup: Morocco, Nigeria, Egypt and then South Africa. But they lost every time. Something had to be done and that was why we introduced the rotation system. Without it Africa would never have hosted the World Cup. There are too many people who don't have enough confidence in Africa and I don't know why. It is a continent that has given us so much and it's time to give it something in return. And look, our economic partners have shown their confidence, and television too. They will be there in 2010. It's only right and I believe that it was a moral obligation of ours to give the World Cup to the Africans.
On the vuvuzelas
Yes, the vuvuzelas are different. And honestly I don't hear them any more. We have brought the World Cup to Africa where the atmosphere and the culture are different. What message would we be sending out if we said, ‘We are going to prohibit the instrument you use to express your joy'? That would be discrimination, pure and simple.
On the legacy of the World Cup in Africa
The World Cup is going to bring so many things to the people of South Africa. In fact it has already done so by giving job opportunities to a lot of people since preparations began four years ago. The Football For Hope programme is also going to help a lot too, and media coverage of the event will show the rest of the world and South Africans too that ‘Yes they can', just as President Obama says so often. He could well be at next year's showcase, in fact, as I have invited him to attend the Opening Match. And finally, the World Cup will also leave infrastructures behind it.
FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke
On the organisation of the Confederations Cup
The Confederations Cup is not the World Cup. It's a dry run that allows us to see how the organisational side of things is going. And for the moment we are very satisfied. We are not getting carried away and we know what problems there are, but the world now knows that South Africa is capable of organising a competition like this. The teams have all told us they are very happy in terms of the hotels, the organisation and the welcome from the people. The players are the best ambassadors the World Cup has. So it's all looking very positive, though we are aware there is still a lot to be done.
As regards ticketing we've learnt a lesson. There's no doubt that we didn't get our marketing quite right in terms of price and the numbers of seats. But it doesn't have anything to do with the World Cup. It's something that will be looked at for Brazil 2013. It's true that the issue of companies buying tickets and not using them is a problem as it results in empty seats. We'll be doing what we can to ensure that unused tickets are sent back to us sufficiently in advance of games so that we can put them back on the market.
We know that not everything has worked perfectly. The system needs to be reworked for the both the press and the fans, especially as there will be a lot more visitors here during the World Cup. We are thinking about laying on a shuttle system for the media with a timetable designed to meet the needs of reporters. It's an issue that also involves security and we need to work with the police and other resources if necessary. It's a key question that's right at the top of our list, as we all know.
The issue of security, which was a big topic in the media before the event, has been handled pretty well. The police and the government have really helped us out in that area and I would like to thank them for that. We are pleased, but we know a lot more training needs to be done so that everyone knows exactly what they have to do, and to avoid problematic situations arising, particularly around the stadiums.
On hotels and accommodation
We know there is a problem with regard to the number of rooms available, particularly in Bloemfontein. Overall, we are about 15,000 rooms short of the 55,000 we will need for the World Cup. It's something we are still looking at. People want to stay somewhere safe, with a bathroom and a bed to sleep on, but not necessarily four-star. We are working to come up with solutions so that fans can access this type of accommodation.