Blatter boosts upbeat Ghanaians
© FIFA.com

With excitement at fever pitch in Ghana due to its hosting of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations, FIFA, CAF and UEFA made enjoyable four-day visits to the country. Led by their respective presidents Joseph S. Blatter, Issa Hayatou and Michel Platini, the delegations were received with welcoming arms by Ghanaian President John Agyekum Kufuor on 17 January.

FIFA supported Ghana with the building of four new stadiums for this year's Africa Cup of Nations, which got underway on Sunday, and President Blatter advised that the country could now be ready to host other international competitions. Mr Kufuor, meanwhile, expressed his government's pride and honour at receiving the delegations and in staging the 26th edition of the continental finals.

The opening ceremony for the 30th CAF General Assembly, held at the International Convention Centre in Accra one day later, was a colourful event decorated by local music and dance. During the evening, President Blatter was awarded the medal of honour by the Supreme Council of Sports in Africa for his contribution to the development of its football.

Blatter underlined the importance of Ghana 2008, pointing out that the whole world is eager to see how Africa teams are shaping up with just two-and-a-half years to go before the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ begins. He mentioned the need for further development in African football, and also spoke about the steps FIFA has taken to ensure that the whole continent benefits from the global showpiece with the 'Win in Africa with Africa' project and the support for domestic leagues.

Blatter and Hayatou also visited Kumasi (240km north of Accra), where they were received by mayor Patricia Apiagyei and were able to see the new stadiums that will be used for the Africa Cup of Nations, including the Baba Yara Sports Stadium, an impressive venue with a 40,500 capacity. Later, the pair went to the Accra National Stadium, where the opening match of Ghana 2008 was held on Sunday.

On 19 January, Platini and Hayatou inaugurated two Goal projects and a new artificial turf pitch. The first stop was the Ghanaman Soccer Centre of Excellence in Prampram, a technical centre for football which was the first Goal project awarded to the Ghana Football Assocation.

The delegation was greeted by traditional dancing and music in a festive atmosphere, which prompted the FIFA President to join in the celebrations together with Ghanaian legend Abedi Pele. After a ritual ceremony in which the soil of the centre was "fed" with sacred water, Blatter, Platini and Hayatou were dressed in local garment, adding to the falvour of the event.

The next stop was an artificial pitch at the Tema Sports Stadium, part of the 'Win in Africa with Africa' initiative, which will ensure that 52 African football association each have a new artificial turf pitch by the end of 2008. Two teams of ten-year old local boys impressed the visitors with their amazing levels of skill, which prompted President Blatter to say that these could be future stars for the Ghanaian national team.

Finally, the delegation inaugurated the second Goal project, the House of Football of the Ghanaian FA. These modern headquarters will serve as the basis for the development of Ghanaian football.

And to cap off their visit, the whole delegation attended the opening ceremony and match of the Africa Cup of Nations, enjoying the atmosphere that their hosts' fantastic passion for football creates.