FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter was at the Egyptian Army Stadium in Alexandria on Thursday to attend the opening ceremony of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009 and the opening match between Egypt and Trinidad and Tobago. Despite his busy schedule, he found time to speak to the assembled press.
On the opening of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009
It gives me great pleasure and immense pride to be here at the opening ceremony of this competition. This new stadium is simply magnificent and it is wonderful to see it packed with fans ready to cheer their team on. As the President of FIFA, it is also an honour for me to know that President Mubarak wants to be here today. That goes to show that football is the number one sport in this country.
The U-20 World Cup finals have had a beautiful love affair with the continent of Africa for 32 years now. Since Tunisia 1977 many great players have made their name in the competition and I am sure that we will see several new stars born over the next three weeks.
On Egypt's organisation of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2009
This is the second-most important of all FIFA competitions. A total of 24 teams from all over the world are taking part in it, and from this evening onwards we will see the stars of tomorrow at work. An event of this magnitude requires perfect organisation and I am certain that Egypt will respond very positively to that particular requirement.
On the clubs who have not released their players for Egypt 2009
Only a few of the players who were called up can be described as vital cogs in their club sides. It is not right that the clubs refused to release them and denied them the chance to experience a competition like this just to make them sit on a substitute's bench.
On the appointment of Hany Abo Rida to the FIFA Executive Committee
It is an opportunity for Africa and Egypt to have a seat on the FIFA Executive Committee. We have very few Egyptian representatives and I am sure that Mr Abo Rida will do justice to his position by representing African and Egyptian culture.
On Argentina's current difficulties
Despite being defending world champions, the U-20 team failed to reach Egypt 2009, which shows that they came up against stronger opposition in the qualifiers. The national team are also having a hard time of it in the qualification competition for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. I can't say this with any certainty but perhaps it is true to say that one of the world's greatest footballing nations is going through a temporary crisis.
On Egypt's chances of one day hosting the FIFA World Cup™
Unfortunately for Egypt, they missed out on staging the 2010 World Cup, but I can assure you they submitted a solid bid. We entrusted them with the organisation of this FIFA U-20 World Cup to give them an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to stage such an event. If the day comes when the FIFA World Cup returns to Africa, then there is no doubt that Egypt will be among the favourites to host it.
On Australia's chances of hosting a FIFA World Cup
This country has a good chance for 2018 or 2022. It would be good if it wins the right to stage a FIFA World Cup one day.
On Africa's year at FIFA
2009 will always be remembered as Africa's year, what with the FIFA Confederations Cup, this U-20 World Cup, the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Nigeria and then the Draw for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa in Cape Town. The time had come to repay the continent of Africa for everything it has given us. Together, these competitions are also a way of showing the world that there are several African countries that are capable of organising major events.
On the organisation of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
There are no longer any doubts that the event will go off without any problems in South Africa. All that remains to be sorted out is a minor logistical problem. Bearing in mind the huge numbers of supporters who will be travelling to the country, it will be difficult to move everyone around.