Blatter: My audience with the Pope was extremely significant

Following his private audience with Pope Francis, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter answered the questions of journalists from around the world at the Rome office of the Associazione Stampa Estera in Italia (Foreign Press Association in Italy). Blatter began by reporting on his meeting with the Holy Father, while the FIFA President's answers on several issues are summarised below.

On the Papal audience:
"We have been in contact with the Vatican since the Papal election in March. In our exchange of letters, we asked the Holy Father to grant us an audience at his convenience. I had butterflies in my stomach before the audience. It was a fascinating moment – one of the best moments of my life."

"It was a meeting between two people who love football. We discussed football, of course, but we also spoke about many other issues. Above all, though, we spoke the language of football. For example, I told the Holy Father about my trip to Iran. For his part, the Pope emphasises the significance of football. He asked me personally to give hope to the poor through football. He also requested that we use our footballing efforts to promote, intensify and continue to strive for world peace."

"We greeted each other like two footballers before a game, with what is known as the “Handshake of Peace”. It was the Pope’s wish that we greet each other this way. In football, this type of greeting should continue to be a sign of peace in the future, but above all, a message of peace to the world."

"The man who stood in front of me is not only the most senior Catholic on earth but also exudes incredible serenity and dignity. It was a very special meeting for me. I will remember it fondly for ever."

On Qatar:
"We have sent a clear message to the Emir of Qatar regarding working conditions in his country. We are in constant contact with all the parties involved. However, let me make one thing clear: we only ever talk about Qatar. Some of the companies responsible for the construction work there come from Europe, and they must be held to account in the same way."

On racism in football:
"I have continuously stressed that racism and discrimination have no place in football, and we are fighting it with all the resources at our disposal. FIFA will continue to intensify its efforts. Our primary task is to protect football, and we will do that with all our might."

On kick-off times at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™:
"We will address this issue at a meeting timed to coincide with the World Cup group draw at the start of December."