Sao Tome e Principe extends warm welcome

Flying into the former Portuguese colony of Sao Tome e Principe on day two of his three-leg tour of west Africa, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter found himself just as busy as he had been on the previous day’s visit to Equatorial Guinea.

The FIFA delegation kicked off a hectic schedule with a 9am meeting with Prime Minister Joaquim Rafael Branco, in the country’s capital of Sao Tome.

“I am very grateful to FIFA for their contribution in developing football and to the FIFA President for fulfilling his commitment to organise the World Cup in Africa, which I am sure will be a great success,” said Mr Branco.

The trip was Blatter’s first to the country and it was also the first time FIFA had paid a visit since the founding of the Sao Tome e Principe Football Association exactly 35 years ago.

“Today is Africa Day, a celebration of independence, and it makes me very proud to hear your warm words of gratitude for the support FIFA has given your country,” said Blatter in response. “We are going to continue with these efforts because FIFA’s mission is to support those associations with the least resources. Sao Tome e Principe must now move on and take part in international competitions. And to achieve that goal the government and the FA must work together.”

Sao Tome e Principe must now move on and take part in international competitions. And to achieve that goal the government and the FA must work together.

The next engagement on the itinerary was a meeting with the President of Sao Tome e Principe Fradique de Menezes. “It is a great honour for us to be welcomed here with the World Cup about to start in Africa in a few days time,” said the FIFA President. “All that remains to be done now is for Sao Tome e Principe to take their place in international competition.”

That is an ambitious goal for the tiny state, which has a population of a little over 212,000 and comprises two main islands (Sao Tome and Principe) among other smaller islands, and which is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a GDP of $390.

“Our aim is to come up with solutions so that we can properly harness the support we receive from FIFA,” commented President Menezes. “This World Cup is one for the whole of Africa, and with that in mind I will be making the trip to South Africa to welcome delegations from other continents.”

Following his audience with the President, Blatter made his way to the Estadio National 12 de Julho to inaugurate its new artificial pitch, installed thanks to funding from the programme Win in Africa with Africa. He stayed on for the women’s football match between Sporting Praia Cruz and Desportivo Mezochife.

Goal Projects make their mark
At the final whistle the FIFA President moved on to the inauguration of the country’s new technical centre. Built in 2003 thanks to the first of two Goal Projects, the Academia Nacional de Futebol was extended in a second phase and an artificial pitch added.

From there it was on to the headquarters of the national FA, where 200 footballs were handed out as part of the adidas/Goal Football Project. News was then announced of another Goal Project: a new technical centre to be built this time on Principe, the idea being to ensure the equal distribution of resources on both islands.

Taking his leave of Sao Tome e Principe, Blatter then flew back to mainland Africa and Gabon, the third and final destination on his west African tour. Arriving in the capital city Libreville, the FIFA President was welcomed by President Ali Bongo Ondimba, with the Minister for Sport Rene Ndemezo' Obiang and the President of the Gabonese FA Placide Engandazas also in attendance.

On the agenda for the day ahead are the development of football, the importance of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ to the continent of Africa, and the 2012 CAF African Cup of Nations, to be co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.