On Friday 23 October, the eve of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009, FIFA and the Local Organising Committee (LOC) held a press conference in Abuja. FIFA vice-president and U-17 World Cup Organising Committee Chairman Jack A. Warner, FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke, FIFA Executive Committee member Dr Amos Adamu, and chief executive of the LOC Mainasara Illo all fielded questions from the many journalists in attendance.
Talking points included the level of preparation, FIFA standards, the introduction of MRI wrist scans, and a range of other subjects.
Jack A. Warner, FIFA vice-president and U-17 World Cup Organising Committee Chairman
On the level of preparation
We had a meeting this morning with the Local Organising Committee in which we discussed the various challenges facing the competition. They are the same challenges that are found at any FIFA tournament: decentralisation of staff in host cities, office equipment, ambulances, Internet connectivity, each host city's level of preparation, the opening ceremony, etc. We are making all the necessary preparations to ensure that this will be a smoothly-run and exciting tournament. Of course there are challenges, but none of them are insurmountable.
On FIFA's high standards
It's true that the standards weren't the same for the FIFA U-20 World Cup that was held here in 1999, and it's true that they are exacting. But Nigeria shouldn't expect FIFA to lower them - they should strive to meet them, as they have done with many aspects of the tournament. I can't say I'm 100 per cent satisfied, because I'm looking for excellence throughout. I know that Nigeria can stage a great tournament that is just as good, if not better, than 1999.
Jerome Valcke, FIFA Secretary General
On the overall tournament organisation
This is undoubtedly the first time FIFA has put such a great deal of effort into helping the LOC achieve its objectives. FIFA has thrown all its weight behind the tournament. Of course we've had ups and downs with the LOC, but what's important is that we worked together to make sure the tournament goes ahead tomorrow as planned. We're going to make sure it's a success - there's no alternative. We'll prove that Africa is a footballing continent, as we did last month in Egypt and as we will next year in South Africa.
On the possible withdrawal of Nigeria's hosting rights to the tournament
We had a meeting with the Vice President of Nigeria in June, and he assured us that all our requests would be met. From then on, we were in no doubt that the tournament would take place in Nigeria. And the tournament starts tomorrow, so it's not even an issue any more.
On the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) wrist scans to check players' ages
The tests will start today and continue throughout the competition, because it's important to make sure that no player is over 17. The results will be transparent; we have no reason to hide them.
Dr Amos Adamu, FIFA Executive Committee member
Everyone would agree that enormous efforts have been made to get the tournament ready on time. Now it's up to you, the media, to tell the world about it and encourage people to go the games. Nigeria has known for four years that it would be staging this tournament, and the LOC and FIFA are here to make sure that their standards are met.
Mainasara Illo, chief executive of the Local Organising Committee
We've come a long way, that's for sure. We've transformed potato fields into world-class pitches. We've set up high-quality medical units, as well as many other services, from telecommunications to media facilities, just as FIFA requested. I'm just as excited as everyone else. Now we've got to get the fans to fill the stadiums.