Blatter meets Obama at the White House

FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter has just completed a hectic four-day visit to the United States. As part of his packed schedule Blatter took in the final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, gave a host of interviews to the American media and enjoyed a private audience with US President Barack Obama.

No sooner did Blatter step off the plane at New York's Teterboro Airport on Friday afternoon than he began his demanding round of engagements, attending the Gold Cup gala dinner, the prelude to Sunday's final. Just a few hours earlier Mexico made sure of their place in the showpiece match by beating Costa Rica on penalties, with hosts USA joining them courtesy of an altogether more predictable 2-0 defeat of Honduras.

Blatter spent the whole of Saturday and Sunday morning talking to both the national and international media, with MLS among the many subjects up for discussion. "It is our wish for the United States to have a strong championship," commented the FIFA President before adding, "The US Soccer Federation might want to think about changing the MLS calendar to make it a more attractive league. All we can do though is make suggestions."

The press also took great interest in Blatter's meeting with Barack Obama, scheduled for Monday. "I know he has quite a few people around him who are big football fans and who will be doing everything in their power so that he can attend the opening ceremony of this major event," said the President of world football's governing body in reference to the invitation he extended to President Obama in June to attend the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.

In particular, he was very interested in the development plans and using football for development, especially in the areas of education and health.
Joseph S. Blatter on Barack Obama.

The American media also asked Blatter several questions about the bids to host the FIFA World Cup in 2018 and 2022. Remaining impartial, he refused to make any comment.

After lunching with the Swiss Ambassador to the United Nations Peter Maurer, he made his way to the venue for Sunday's Gold Cup final, the new 82,500-capacity Giants Stadium, part of the Meadowlands Complex. Just before the match got under way, Blatter made the symbolic gesture of scoring the first ever goal at the stadium.

When the match kicked off, however, the Americans failed to follow the FIFA President's example and were swept aside by their Mexican opponents, who scored five second-half goals without reply to win the title in style. Gerardo Torrado, Giovanni dos Santos, Carlos Vela, Jose Antonio Castro and Guillermo Franco were the men on the scoresheet.

Afterwards the FIFA delegation, which also comprised FIFA vice-president and CONCACAF President Jack A. Warner, FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke and USSF President Sunil Gulati, boarded a plane for Washington for Monday's audience with President Obama, scheduled for 14.00 hours local time. Following a meeting lasting half an hour, where numerous topics were discussed, Blatter declared that he was: "impressed by the enthusiasm of President Barack Obama. We talked about Africa, and the World Cup in South Africa. In particular, he was very interested in the development plans and using football for development, especially in the areas of education and health.""

In an Official Statement from the White House, President Obama "complimented FIFA on their efforts to incorporate community service, education and public health projects into their plans for staging the 2010 World Cup in South Africa." The President of United States of America also thanked "Mr. Blatter for inviting [me] to attend next year's event" and said he "hoped [my] schedule would allow him to do so."