With a hectic whirl of press conferences, official functions and meetings, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter will have plenty to keep him occupied over the next two weeks in South Africa, where the FIFA Confederations Cup are taking place. FIFA.com looks back at an eventful first few days for Blatter, which began when he jetted in to Johannesburg last Thursday.
No sooner had Blatter stepped off the plane than he was giving a press conference to a multitude of journalists at the Sandton Hotel. In stressing his confidence in the ability of South Africa to put on a good show at the FIFA Confederations Cup and the FIFA World Cup™ next year, Blatter said: "This FIFA World Cup belongs to Africa. My job is to make sure that football becomes a socio-cultural movement within society. Football is popular throughout the world and it can help us to build a brighter future, to aid understanding and bring different societies together. Football belongs to the world and above all to children."
That same evening, the tournament's stakeholders came together for the opening banquet. The Organising Committee, event partners and FIFA were royally entertained by the group Umoja as they enjoyed a musical kick-off to the competition. Also savouring the occasion were Lilian Thuram and Demetrio Albertini, just two of the many VIP guests on what proved to be a very enjoyable evening.
On Saturday, as part of a documentary being filmed about him, Blatter visited the FIFA Centre of Medical Excellence at Wits University. Joining him there was FIFA Chief Medical Officer Prof. Jiri Dvorak, who once again explained the importance of the ‘11+' warm-up programme, a series of simple exercises designed to prevent players from sustaining injuries. A group of children were on hand to show just how easy the programme is.
"The ‘11+' Programme should be implemented as a key element of all football training," said the professor. "In fact, every coach and team physician needs to be aware of its positive effects and results."
Working together in Wolof
Later that day Blatter caught up with some of the locals when he dropped in on an amateur match, shaking hands and signing autographs for the players, who were delighted, if a little surprised, to get the chance to meet the President of world football's governing body. His last engagement of the day was an official dinner with the Mayor of Johannesburg, Amos Masondo, where more than a few gifts and words of encouragement were exchanged.
The following day brought the start of the FIFA Confederations Cup, with the FIFA President and the President of South Africa Jacob Zuma stepping out on the pitch before the tournament curtain-raiser between South Africa and Iraq at Ellis Park, Johannesburg. Rallying the crowd during his pre-match speech, the FIFA President said, "I have every confidence in South Africa."
Monday brought little respite for Blatter. First on the agenda was an award ceremony, with the FIFA President taking receipt of the Jappo Award for the Promotion of Sport in Africa. The accolade was presented by Diamil Faye, the President of Jappo, which means "working together" in Wolof, a west African language that is the most widely spoken in Senegal. The aim of the organisation is to use all available resources to promote and develop sport in Africa, an objective that it shares with FIFA, which itself carries out a lot of work in this area, particularly through the Goal Project.
"On behalf of FIFA it gives me great pride to receive this award," commented Blatter. "This shows that we are on the right path. ‘Working together' is essential if we are to ensure strong and deep-rooted development, with the associations, development officials and all the game's stakeholders joining as one." And with that, the FIFA President was on his way again, this time to Bloemfontain, the next stop on his packed schedule.