Led by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, a FIFA delegation paid a visit to Bangladesh on Tuesday. The day’s packed schedule began when they were met at Dhaka Airport by the President of the Bangladeshi Football Association (BFF), Mohammad Kazi Salahuddin.
Blatter’s first engagement was to open the photography exhibition Bangladeshi Football in Images, organised by the Bangladesh Sports Press Association and the BFF.
“You can see that football is more than just an expression of joy here,” said Blatter, a former sports reporter, as he perused the photos of Bangladeshi fans. “It unleashes real passion and has the potential to take off.”
The FIFA party then opened the country’s Goal II Project, an artificial pitch that has been installed to enable Bangladesh’s national teams at all age levels to train all year round in the best possible conditions.
“There are 160 million inhabitants in your country and I am certain that Bangladesh has the pool of talent it needs,” Blatter said. “You only have to look at the World Cup qualifiers to see that you are on the right track. You’re nearly there, and you might well make it next time. Football is hope and passion, so keep on going.”
Lying 157th in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, Bangladesh were knocked out of the qualifiers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ by Lebanon, and have achieved little of note since winning the South Asia Gold Cup in 2003. Yet with Salahuddin, a former national team star, at the helm, the BFF is making every effort to restore their fortunes.
“The Federation has an important role to play in developing football,” added the FIFA President. “I also believe that your prime minister is a supporter of the game as she knows the educational benefits it can bring.”
As well as highlighting the BFF’s efforts to promote women’s football in Bangladesh, Blatter spoke of the nation’s Goal III Project, the construction of a football training centre: “FIFA will lay on the best possible financial and technical support to ensure the training centre is a success. I am sure that before long you will be producing some very fine youth teams who will shine on the continental scene.”
Following the ceremony, the FIFA President made the journey to the national parliament, Jatiya Sangsad, for an audience with the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina. He then attended an official dinner.
The FIFA delegation will travel on to Bhutan on Wednesday.