On 1 April 2006, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter paid his first official visit to Bangladesh. He was welcomed by traditional folk dances and, as he passed through lines of well-wishers over a carpet of flowers, the joy of the local population at this second visit by a FIFA president to their country was plain for all to see.
Accompanied by S.A. Sultan, chairman of the Bangladeshi football federation, and by Mohamed Bin Hammam, President of the AFC, Joseph S. Blatter met in the morning with the country's President Iajuddin Ahmed, then the Minister for Sport, Mohd Fazlur Rahman. "For a country as large and populous as yours, such a young federation has a lot of work to do! I know it's not easy to set up a programme, but this is a good start," President Blatter underlined, clearly moved by the warm welcome received.
As announced in the region's daily papers, the FIFA President officially opened the AFC Challenge Cup, Bangladesh 2006. This brand-new tournament brings together 16 emerging Asian countries, who are taking each other on from 1 to 16 April this year in Bangladesh. The FIFA visit received extensive coverage in Bangladesh and the enthusiastic crowd gave a rousing reception to the players, the President and all the officials. Later, the sense of national celebration was maintained in fine style by the home nation's victory over Cambodia (2-1) in the first game of the tournament.
After attending the opening of the event, President Blatter and M. Bin Hammam moved on to Malé in the Maldives on 2 April 2006. This visit was part of the tour being undertaken of the various countries which have benefited from the FIFA/AFC aid fund after being devastated by the tsunami .
Incidentally, it was also FIFA's very first visit to the Maldives, an association which became a member of the global football family in 1986. On Monday, the President is visiting Sri Lanka, before travelling to Indonesia and then Thailand.