FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter met a panel of South African journalists during the weekend of the Preliminary Draw for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, which was held on 25 November in Durban. President Blatter discussed a number of controversial topics, including security in South Africa and delays in the general organisation and administration of African football.
President Blatter on football in Africa...
Addis Ababa in February 1976 was my first contact with Africa when I was FIFA Director of Development. When I touched down on African soil, I realised just what football meant to this continent: it is so much more than a game, it is a sport filled with emotion capable of moving an entire nation.
The organisation of the FIFA World Cup™ in South
Many African federations have applied over the years to host a FIFA World Cup but their bids never managed to compete with those from the powerful European nations. This is why we introduced a rotation system to give fate a helping hand. It was a political and sporting decision that we took, and one that has brought us here today. With the Preliminary Draw, Africa is opening itself up to the world.
The difficulties as reported in the media
It is by no means easy to organise a FIFA World Cup; you can't just do it overnight. It is the competition with the highest exposure, demand and profile - we already have a number of countries interested in applying for 2018. Since 2004, a number of people have been saying that 'South Africa isn't capable of organising the World Cup'. It is true that some problems have been encountered in the organising of the event, but your Republic has only been in existence for 13 years and football has a role to play when it comes to integration. This World Cup should be a legacy for your country and your whole continent.
Security, transport and ticketing
Security is a subject which concerns every country throughout the world. Football has had its share of violence, and we can do all that we can to avoid it on the pitch and in the stadiums, but we cannot do any more than that. The media systematically pose questions about security, as they did when we awarded the 2014 tournament to Brazil, but we can go beyond this problem. To tell you the truth, the same questions were being asked in the run-up to Germany 2006 and France 98. At the end of the day, everything went according to plan in Germany because people came to enjoy themselves and were on their best behaviour. Transport will of course take a lot of organising but I know that you will manage it. Prices for tickets have been established, with a category available for the least well-off. I am convinced that it will be a fantastic FIFA World Cup. It will be unique. In any case, you cannot compare one edition with another - it is the spirit of the country that makes the tournament a success.
The South African team
The national team needs to shake itself up, starting with the Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana in January. That way we will see what kind of effort has been made. After that, they will have another year to get ready for the FIFA Confederations Cup and then another year before the tournament itself. It is a short space of time, but remember 2002 and 2006. On both occasions the host nations were looking sluggish and then we all know what happened after that.
Football administration in Africa
We know that there is a gap in terms of the administration of the associations in Africa, and the African Confederation knows this as well. This is why we have launched the 'Win in Africa with Africa' programme. The 70 million dollar budget has helped to install artificial pitches across the continent and [fund] the management courses in administration that are currently being arranged. Means will also be made available to strengthen local leagues. The CAF has been in existence for 50 years but there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of organisation. In the past, governments have tended to intervene too much in what the federations were doing, which is very much a problem here in Africa. Making improvements in this particular field also has to be part of the 2010 legacy.
His absence at the Orlando Pirates-Kaizer Chiefs
I did not attend the match between the Orlando Pirates and the Kaizer Chiefs first of all since I believe that is the role of the former players on the Executive Committee, namely Franz Beckenbauer and Michel Platini. And then I also had to take part in the rehearsal for the Draw, as simple as that!
The number of African teams at the FIFA World Cup
I do not know whether Africa will again have six teams at FIFA World Cups in the future. I think it will depend on the results in 2010. If the African teams can pull off some really good performances then it makes it difficult for anyone to say that they should not have six teams. Whatever happens, the decision will not be taken before the end of 2010.
The delays at Port Elizabeth and Cape Town
Port Elizabeth and Cape Town are a little behind schedule, but I know they will be ready at the specified time and that a solution will be found to allow swift progress to be made. There are still 900 days to go before the kick-off, which is more time than they will need. At the moment, the lights are amber and I'm confident they will soon turn green.