FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter ended his short tour of South America with a visit to Chile, arriving there from Uruguay on the evening of Friday 15 June. “Just landed in Santiago. Really looking forward to attending the 50th anniversary celebrations of the 1962 FIFA World Cup Chile,” said the head of world football’s governing body via Twitter, upon touching down in the Chilean capital.
President Blatter’s official duties did not start until the morning of the following day, when he and the FIFA delegation made their way to the headquarters of the Chilean National Association of Professional Football (ANFP), where he was the Council of Club Presidents’ guest of honour.
ANFP officials, led by its President, Sergio Jadue, Vice-president Justo Alvarez and General Secretary Nibaldo Jaque, presented the FIFA President with the ‘Golden Star of Chilean Football’ award.
In front of an audience that included, among other notable figures, CONMEBOL President Nicolas Leoz and FIFA Executive Committee member Marco Polo del Nero, President Blatter appeared visibly moved as he passed on his thanks.
“It’s a great honour for me to receive this award,” he said. “I take it as recognition from a FIFA member that has been playing an important role in football as well as in one of the sport's most fundamental social issues: educating our young people,” he continued.
The delegation then visited the Palacio de La Moneda, the building in which Chile’s presidential offices are housed. In this historic location, Chilean Vice-President Rodrigo Hinzpeter, representing President Sebastian Pinera Echenique, presented the head of FIFA with the Bernardo O'Higgins Order of Merit
“No man could remain in the same organisation for 37 years without feeling love and passion for what he does,” said Hinzpeter.
“I am honoured and thrilled in equal measure to receive this prestigious accolade, that I accept on behalf of football as a whole,” reflected the recipient of the award.
In the evening, the FIFA President and his delegation shared in the emotion generated by the festivities marking the 50th anniversary of the 1962 FIFA World Cup™, held in Chile. It is worth remembering that on 16 June half a century ago, La Roja, coached by the late Fernando Riera, beat Yugoslavia 1-0 with a 90th-minute goal from Eladio Rojas to claim third place in the tournament.
The group of 12 surviving members of Chile’s 1962 squad who attended the event included Leonel Sanchez, Jorge Toro, Alberto Fouilloux and Sergio Navarro, captain of the team.
“That World Cup was special for another reason, aside from the sporting aspect: we were recovering from an earthquake similar to the one suffered by the country in 2010,” Sanchez told FIFA.com, who was one of the competition's six joint-top scorers, finding the net four times.
President Blatter also provided some personal memories of the event. “I was a sportswriter at the time of the FIFA World Cup and, thanks to radio coverage, I was able to follow everything that happened at Chile 1962,” he said.
“This is a time of celebration for those who played or coached at the tournament, and also for the Chilean people, who managed to organise the FIFA World Cup despite some trying circumstances. What a great initiative by the Chilean FA to mark the event!” concluded the FIFA President before returning home.
The Chilean national side, coached by Argentinian tactician Claudio Borghi, currently lead the South American Zone qualifying standings for Brazil 2014. The nation will be placed firmly back in the footballing spotlight in 2015, as that year sees them host both the FIFA U-17 World Cup and the Copa America.