St Petersburg welcomes President Blatter
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FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter was in St Petersburg last weekend for a short official visit. After arriving in the historic city on Friday, President Blatter met with his friend, UEFA President Michel Platini, as well as UEFA vice-president Marios Lefkaritis, and the President of the Russian FA Vitaly Mutko.

Aside from attending the final of the 16th Commonwealth of Independent States and Baltic States Cup on Sunday, the FIFA President also had some official business to attend to, joining his UEFA counterpart on Saturday in a series of individual meetings with the heads of several of the CIS's football associations.

As usual, President Blatter welcomed the opportunity to attend the meetings, organised in conjunction with European football's governing body, as they gave him the chance to gauge each country's needs and the areas they are making advances in.

"One of the points I would like to underline is the importance of getting young players registered with clubs as early as possible," commented President Blatter. "This is something we need to do because it is an excellent way of building up a solid and reliable database with information on players, a database we can use to stop them being bought and sold on the international market."

President Blatter also spoke of his satisfaction at the progress being made through the various FIFA Goal projects. The countries involved have been busy with the building of their respective headquarters, with some also creating academies and constructing new stadia. These projects are the cornerstones of the worldwide development of the game, and the President also stressed how vital it was for them to be monitored, maintained and used as intended.

Another issue high on Joseph S. Blatter's agenda was the continuing struggle against illegal betting. "I am well aware that the fight against illegal gambling remains a cause of concern for many countries," he said. "And as part of our desire to coordinate this fight, FIFA has set up the Early Warning System in Zurich."

On Saturday evening, the members of the football family visiting St Petersburg gathered together at the Piskarevskoye Memorial Cemetery to commemorate a very special day in the city's history. It was on 27 January 1944 that the 900-day siege of the city by the German army was finally lifted, and to mark the anniversary flowers were laid in remembrance of a time of extreme suffering and heroism.

Accompanied by Michel Platini and Vitaly Mutko, President Blatter then headed to the Zenit Football Academy, where he offered words of encouragement to some of the youngsters hoping to make the grade with the reigning Russian league champions.

The FIFA President rounded off his trip to Russia the following day by paying his now customary visit to the final of the 16th CIS and Baltic States Cup, which saw Azerbaijan take on Uzbekistan. "I've always come to this tournament and I fully intend to return. The standard of football I saw in the final was excellent and may I offer my congratulations to the winners, Azerbaijan."