Dear member associations,
Dear friends,

I hope you had a good start to the New Year and I’m happy to be sending you the first President’s message of 2013.

In the spotlight
FIFA Ballon d’Or
7 January

The FIFA Ballon d’Or, crowning the best players of 2012, was once again a truly memorable event! The crème de la crème of the footballing world stopped by, and the red carpet in front of the Kongresshaus in Zurich attracted more than 500 fans hoping to get autographs from their heroes. I would once again like to thank everyone who was involved in the staging of this event, and extend my congratulations to all of the award winners of the evening:

- Argentina’s Lionel Messi, who collected a record-breaking fourth consecutive title for the best player in the world
- Abby Wambach of USA, who claimed her first FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year award
- Spain’s Vicente del Bosque, who won the FIFA World Coach of the Year for Men’s Football award
- Sweden’s Pia Sundhage, the new FIFA World Coach of the Year for Women’s Football award winner
- Slovakia’s Miroslav Stoch, winner of the FIFA Puskás Award
- The Uzbekistan Football Federation, who were granted the Fair Play Award
- Franz Beckenbauer of Germany, who received the Presidential Award

The XXI Commonwealth Cup, Russia
20 January

It was a pleasure to attend the XXI Commonwealth Cup in Russia, an annual football tournament between teams from Eastern Europe and Central Asia that is recognised by FIFA. In my opening speech, I expressed my respect for the 70th anniversary of the end of the Siege of Leningrad during World War II.

In a press conference I held together with the President of the Football Union of Russia, Nikolai A. Tolstykh, I reiterated the need for the global football community to take a tough stance against discriminatory acts in the sport.

I also had the honour of attending a plenary meeting of the Football Union of Russia and of holding individual meetings with the presidents and general secretaries of 14 member associations (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Uzbekistan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Lithuania).

On the road
Visit to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE
4-6 January

On the first weekend of the year, I had the honour of speaking at the 3rd Sports Investment Forum and Exhibition in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, in the presence of HRH Prince Nawaf bin Faisal bin Fahd bin Abdulaziz. My stay in Saudi Arabia also gave me the opportunity to meet the new President of the Saudi FA, Ahmed Eid Al Harbi. I then travelled the short distance to Bahrain in time for the inaugural ceremony of the Gulf Cup 21, followed by the opening match between the hosts and Oman. Finally, I completed my trip with a visit to Dubai and was a guest of honour at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Awards ceremony.

At the Home of FIFA
Committee for Club Football
8 January

I was delighted to open the meeting of the Committee for Club Football, which convened at the Home of FIFA under the chairmanship of Executive Committee member Jacques Anouma. Among the many topics discussed, positive feedback was given by club representatives concerning goal-line technology, which was used for the first time at the FIFA Club World Cup in 2012.

Djibouti FA President at the Home of FIFA
8 January

Djibouti FA (FDF) President Souleiman Hassan Waberi visited FIFA in Zurich, together with FDF General Secretary Hassan Mohamed Kamil and the country’s Secretary of State for Youth and Sport, Dr Djama Elmi Okieh. The Djibouti FA’s priority for the coming years is to develop the women’s game, as well as developing football at the grassroots level in order to have a competitive U-17 team by 2014.

FIFA Beach Soccer workshop
8-9 January

Representatives from more than 30 member associations convened at the Home of FIFA to take part in a workshop about beach soccer. Topics on the agenda included the future of the sport and its further promotion.

Visit of Wilfried Lemke of the UN
8 January

It was a pleasure to discuss football-related matters with Wilfried Lemke, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on Sport for Development and Peace. Mr Lemke, who is very involved with German football club Werder Bremen, praised FIFA for its excellent social responsibility work and particularly the Football for Hope Centres. Mr Lemke also presented the current work of his office and we discussed opportunities for further collaboration between FIFA and the United Nations.

Visit of Trinidad & Tobago FA President
15 January

The newly appointed President of the Trinidad & Tobago FA (TTFF), Raymond Tim Kee, a long-time football supporter and experienced businessman, accepted an invitation to the Home of FIFA. Following the recent challenges faced by the TTFF, Kee has his sights firmly set on reorganising the internal structures of the association with the ultimate goal of restoring his country’s passion for football.

Bosnia and Herzegovina FA at FIFA
22 January

The Bosnia and Herzegovina FA (FFBH) has been through difficult times but is now gradually recovering. The newly elected FA President Elvedin Begić visited FIFA with an FFBH delegation that included Faruk Hadžibegić, the last captain of the national team of Yugoslavia and capped 65 times. Hadžibegić then become the coach of Bosnia-Herzegovina before taking on his new official role of monitoring the FFBH as an observer.

Municipal Council of Visp visit Zurich
22 January

It was with great pleasure that I welcomed representatives of the municipal council of my Swiss home town of Visp to Zurich. The council held their second meeting of the year at the Home of FIFA.

Courtesy visit of the President of the United Republic of Tanzania
23 January

The President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, paid a courtesy visit to the Home of FIFA. The President, who has played a key role in restoring peace to the African Great Lakes region, believes in football’s power to bring people together and said: “Football can make a real contribution to peace. Even when countries are at war, people play football.”

Visit of the Indian FA President
23 January

I was delighted to welcome the President of the All India Football Federation, Praful Patel, to the Home of FIFA. Among the many topics on the agenda, we discussed the possibility of India hosting the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017.

Swedish FA President at the Home of FIFA
23 January

It was a pleasure to welcome a delegation from the Swedish FA, led by its President Karl-Erik Nilsson, to the Home of FIFA.

Visit of HRH Princess Astrid of Belgium
24 January

In her role as a Special Representative of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM), HRH Princess Astrid of Belgium visited the Home of FIFA to discuss FIFA’s commitment to global health issues. FIFA has provided valuable support to the RBM and therefore discussions focused on potential future opportunities for collaboration between FIFA and the RBM.

Finnish FA President visits FIFA
28 January

Finnish FA President Pertti Alaja and his delegation stopped by the Home of FIFA for various very productive meetings.

More visitors to the Home of FIFA:
It was a pleasure to welcome the following guests, among others, to the Home of FIFA:

• The women’s squad of the Shanghai Football Association
• Members of the Danish Football Association Leadership Academy

Other events
Match-fixing conference in Rome
17 January

Some 200 international delegates met in Rome for the conference “Match fixing: the ugly side of the beautiful game”, to discuss the threats posed to football by match-fixing and ways to further improve its prevention and investigation. Delegates in attendance included FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke and his counterparts from INTERPOL and UEFA, Ronald K. Noble and Gianni Infantino respectively, as well as representatives from FIFPro, SportAccord, member associations, players, referees, betting organisations, gambling regulatory authorities and law enforcement agencies.

Did you know that…
… FIFA’s Live Your Goals campaign aims to encourage girls and young women to play football? USA international Alex Morgan, an avid supporter of the campaign, said: “We have a responsibility as female professional athletes to create passion in girls and show them that their dreams can come true.”

… The first general training session for the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 volunteer programme attracted nearly 100,000 applicants? This training, which forms part of the selection process, is compulsory for anyone wishing to work as a volunteer.

Condolences
My sincere condolences go to the friends and family of all those who have passed away this month, including:
61 people tragically killed in a stadium stampede in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire
Ladislao Mazurkiewicz, Uruguay, former international goalkeeper
Manfred Amerell, Germany, former international referee, manager and member of the DFB
Dr Werner Allemann, Switzerland, former member of the Swiss FA
Fritz Peter, Switzerland, former member of the Swiss FA
Václav Drobný, Czech Republic, former player, RC Strasbourg, former Czech U-21 captain
Emanuel Sheffer, Israel, former coach, Israel national team
Salvador Reyes, Mexico, former player, Club Deportivo Guadalajara
Sean Fallon, Rep. Ireland, former player and official, Celtic FC
Roy Cox, England/NZ, former player, founding father of women’s football in New Zealand
Seven amateur players, Turkey, killed in landslide in south-eastern Turkey
Guillermo Nimo, Argentina, former referee
Geoff Thomas, Wales, former player, Manchester United and Swansea City
Zurab Popkhadze, Georgia, former international player
Nick Broad, England, assistant coach to Carlo Ancelotti at Paris Saint-Germain
Riccardo Garrone, Italy, former President, Sampdoria
Pietro Scibilia, Italy, former President, Pescara
Jimmy Payne, England, former player, Liverpool and Everton
Phiwe Sigwili, South Africa, former player, AmaZulu and Nathi Lions
Walter Wehrle, Switzerland, well-known sports journalist and author
Dr Malcolm Brodie MBE, Northern Ireland, FIFA award-winning sports reporter

Looking ahead

• Meeting Week, Zurich, Switzerland
11-15 February

• Travel to Mauritania, Guinea, Botswana and South Africa
6-10 February

For the Game. For the World.

Follow President Blatter on Twitter
PS: Stay up to date with my visits and thoughts by following me on twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/seppblatter