From 9-12 October, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter was on an official visit to Serbia, Montenegro and Georgia. As well as discussions with the heads of the respective governments and football associations, there were also Goal projects to inaugurate and an international match to watch. Here we bring you some of the highlights of the trip.
9-10 October, Serbia: first ever visit for FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter marked by an award
The FIFA President and his delegation were welcomed to Belgrade on Thursday evening. "This is the first time that I have come here as President," said Joseph S. Blatter, clearly delighted to be visiting the 'white city.' An official dinner was organised in the evening with Ivica Dacic, Vice President of the Republic of Serbia and Minister for the Interior, in attendance as well as the President of the Serbian Football Association Tomislav Karadzic and the chairmen of local clubs Partizan and Crvena Zvezda (Red Star). "You have some incredibly talented players in your country," said Blatter, "and a lot of potential that I encourage you to nurture."
The following day, the FIFA delegation was received by Serbia's Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic. With the Minister for Sports also present, Cvetkovic was quick to mention the fact that the Serbian FA does not yet have an official headquarters built with support from FIFA, as is the case with almost every other member country's FA. "We need land and also support from the government if we are to be able to carry this out," replied Blatter. Once the Prime Minister had been informed of the FA's projects that are being supported by FIFA and UEFA, he promised to put his weight behind the schemes, providing a real fillip for the FA.
Another topic which was discussed was that of violence in stadiums. "Football is based on discipline and respect, but it's also a very popular sport and there are some people who exploit this popularity to express themselves by violent means. It is our duty to educate the various populations together with the respective governments to make sure that violence does not break out at matches," underlined the FIFA President. The head of world football's goerning body then brought the proceedings to a close with the following message: "Keep the national identity of your football" - a reference to the "6+5" ruling and also the game's need for autonomy. "Football needs to keep its roots where they are and to make sure that your youngsters keep motivated." Blatter then went to the FA's headquarters to discuss the details of the two Goal projects which will finally get to be carried out provided that land can be found, and also to talk about how bright the future is looking for the game in Serbia.
The FIFA President expressed his satisfaction that order and discipline had been restored to the Serbian FA, a sign of development and stability. Before the delegation left, the FA President Tomislav Karadzic presented his FIFA counterpart with the highest honour in Serbian football - the "Diamond Ball" - as a token of his gratitude for the FIFA President's work and support for the development of football.
10-11 October, Montenegro: Goal project and "6+5" on the agenda
The FIFA delegation continued their trip by moving on to Montenegro, where they were received by Prime Minister Milo Dukanovic, who plays an active role in his country's footballing matters. "I believe in the power of football to help the development of our society," he said. "It puts us on the international map all the more quickly." After this visit, it was the President of Montenegro Filip Vujanovic's turn to welcome Joseph S. Blatter. "We are grateful that FIFA integrated us so quickly as a new member," the President noted, underlining his support for the sport in his country and proud of the progress that has already been made. He also presented the FIFA President with a Danilo Cross, representing the Order established upon the independence of Montenegro in 1853.
"I'm pleased to see that football is in a very healthy state here on this, my first visit to a very young association," said a delighted Blatter. "Football is a genuine school of life which teaches us rules, discipline and fair play, and while we will not all go on to become world champions, we can still take away the lessons we have learned for the rest of our lives. You have every reason therefore to believe in the benefits of our sport on your society." The FIFA President then went on to inaugurate the football association's technical centre, along with Dejan Savicevic, who is president of the Montenegro FA, and the mayor of Podgorica Miomir Mugosa. The brand new building is bright red to match the strip of the national team, who were incidentally out training while the ceremony was being conducted under bright blue skies. During the press conference which followed at the FA's headquarters, the press showed great interest in the "6+5" ruling and how it will work - after all, no-one here wants to see local talent leaving the country. After this brief but nonetheless important trip to Podgorica, the delegation moved on to Georgia.
11-12 October, Georgia: an unforgettable match
The party flew over the Caucasus to Georgia, where the FIFA President immediately headed out of Tbilisi to visit the new FA technical centre and artificial pitch built as part of the Goal II project. "I am pleased to be here at this training centre that is a symbol of the future of football in your country. You can always rely on the younger generation and the progress they will make," he said to FA President Nodar Akhalkatsi.
After a press conference where the "6+5" ruling was again one of the topics, the President made an official visit to the Georgian parliament to discuss the country's most popular sport with David Bakradze. The head of the parliament declared himself delighted with the visit and underlined the importance of football's role as a peace-maker in the country. "Your presence here today is incredibly important to us, since football is a source of hope and unity," he said, as he presented Blatter with a golden lion - a symbol of strength and courage.
The FIFA President then headed to the Boris Paichadze national stadium in Tbilisi to watch the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifying match. Immediately prior to kick-off, President Blatter awarded the FIFA Order of Merit posthumously to the late Nodar Akhalkatsi (senior), father of the current FA president who was on hand to accept the honour. The award was in recognition of Akhalkatsi's efforts to promote football in his country as both a player and a coach.