Joseph S. Blatter made the first-ever visit by a FIFA President to Guam today to inaugurate two Goal projects: a football turf field and football turf mini-pitches located at the headquarters of the Guam Football Association (GFA). These are the third and fourth Goal projects to benefit this beautiful western Pacific island.
Greeting Blatter was a large sign bearing the slogan ‘Hafa Adai FIFA’ (‘Best greetings to FIFA’ in Chamorro, the native language of Guam), which was displayed at the entrance of the Guam FA national training centre. Colourful necklaces of flowers were also presented to the guests on this day of celebration.
The inauguration ceremony, which, besides the FIFA President, also involved the Honourable Edward Calvo, Governor of Guam, Zhang Jilong, Acting President of the AFC and Richard K. Lai, President of the Guam FA, began with a festive ‘Parade of Colors’ comprising national players, referees and club teams, including many young players, boys and girls. Praising the display, the FIFA President commented that it had been “unique for me to experience such a parade”.
The festivities continued with a traditional island greeting song, followed by speeches from the dignitaries and a proclamation resolution by the Honourable Vicente C. Pangelinan, Senator of the 31st Guam Legislature. The FIFA President also received the Ancient Order of the Chamorri from Guam's Governor.
"Football is a school of life, based on discipline and respect,” said the FIFA President. “You learn to win - that's easy - but you also learn to lose, which is not so easy. I call on you, especially all the young players here today, to bring football and the values of our beloved sport to the society. I also would like to thank the government of Guam for their support. We see the relationship between football and public authorities as a partnership and that partnership is very important.”
Fittingly, the ribbon-cutting ceremony took place on the football turf field itself, with a spectacular Pacific sunset offering a beautiful natural backdrop. Zhang Jilong, Acting President of the AFC, expressed a conviction that “these facilities will help develop football in Guam," adding: "I would also like to congratulate the FIFA President for the great role the Goal programme has played.”
An inauguration plaque was also unveiled, followed by a photo session with the clubs in attendance and a press conference. “I would like to have all FIFA’s member associations participating in the preliminary competition of the FIFA World Cup,” Blatter said in response to a question from a local journalist on this topic. “Therefore, I hope Guam will soon return to this stage."
Despite basketball and American football being the most-watched sport on TV in this US territory, football – in a remarkable achievement - has the highest number of active participants. As the Honourable Edward Calvo, Governor of Guam, explained: “In about 30 years, the popularity of football has grown a lot, to become the number one sport in Guam." And addressing the FIFA President, he added: "It's an honour to greet you today and see the fruits of the cooperation between FIFA and the GFA. You've been an advocate for children, for the future of this world. God bless you!"
For his part, Blatter’s response was to conclude the event with praise for his gracious and friendly hosts, lauding Guam as “a great island".