"In all my time as FIFA President, I have never seen so many children at the inauguration of a GOAL project," said FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter in Nongiok, Bangkok this morning. "It's wonderful and I am overwhelmed."
Nongiok houses the Football Association of Thailand headquarters and a technical centre, with the crowning glory a new football turf pitch. In total, FIFA have contributed $860,000 to the facility.
It was the pitch that was inaugurated this morning in the presence of hundreds of local boys and girls, one of whom was picked from the crowd to demonstrate his skills in a impromptu kick-about with Blatter, Football Association of Thailand (FAT) President Dato Worawi Makudi, and other dignitaries.
In all my time as FIFA President, I have never seen so many children at the inauguration of a GOAL project. I am overwhelmed.
When talking about the project, Blatter told the crowd gathered around the pitch: "Sometimes we can get too caught up in talking about football, but football is a game to be played. This fantastic facility can be used 24 hours a day, in all weather, and is something to be treasured and used by the youths of Bangkok."
Last night, Blatter and Makudi met the Thai Prime Minister, His Excellency Abhisit Vejjajiva. FIFA received the backing of the government for a new FAT grassroots football initiative, which is seeking to help develop a larger and more skilled base of youngsters while helping to change the social landscape through the delivery of health promotion and disease prevention.
FIFA, in turn, gave its backing to the 'Tonkla-Archeep' Professional Football Player Programme, which aims to train and create jobs for 500,000 unemployed people and train 3,750 youths or unemployed aged between 15 and 25, helping to hopefully start a professional football career in the Thai League.
In a country with a reputation as the 'Land of Smiles' due to its friendliness and hospitality, it was apt that this was the last image on leaving Nongiok today, as local children practised their skills on the new pitch, hoping perhaps that one day they will perform on the highest stage.