On the eve of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009 final, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter held a press conference at the Congress Centre in Abuja, accompanied by a number of dignitaries including the President of the Organising Committee for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, Jack A. Warner and Engr. Sani Ndanusa, Sports Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It proved the perfect occasion to look back over the three weeks of action since the competition began, the use of MRI tests to determine the age of players and the progress of African teams in general, while giving journalists the chance to ask their own questions.
Joseph S. Blatter, FIFA President
On the FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009
Even though I was on the move a lot, I followed the first three weeks of the competition through the media and FIFA.com. It’s the second time that this competition has featured 24 teams, giving a total of 52 matches in eight different cities and stadiums. I’m very happy with the success of this competition after the headaches we experienced before the initial kick-off. Since it started, though, we’ve realised how successful the tournament has been. FIFA is happy to have organised the competition in this country – and not only FIFA, since the teams themselves have all expressed their satisfaction.
On Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) tests to determine if players comply with the age limit.
For years now, FIFA has been combating this problem together with the national associations and confederations. After the research and tests carried out thanks to MRI techniques, we’ve reached the conclusion that the players who’ve taken part in this competition are all in their 18th year at most, as the regulations stipulate. For us, the subject is therefore closed. There’s no more need for me to discuss this problem unless someone has proof that requires it to be looked at again.
On the qualifying criteria for the knockout phase
We need to look into the use of fair play in the elimination of teams when they have the same number of points, the same goal difference and the same number of goals scored. Fair play in this case means yellow cards and red cards, but these cards are at the referee’s discretion. Very tense games can result in just one or two yellow cards, whereas others without the same intensity can sometimes finish with eight or nine cards. We need to look at this problem with the organising committees of the various competitions.
On the chances of African teams at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™
The difficulty African or Asian teams face in terms of winning the World Cup isn’t just a technical one but also a mathematical one. Until now, we've only had world champions from Europe and South America. When you have 32 teams, including 13 from Europe and four or five from South America, there is a group of 17 teams from which the champions have always emerged. For the others, they need to be stronger in terms of technique and tactics to reach the semi-finals. That said, in 2002 we saw that Korea Republic were able to reach the semi-finals, so in South Africa next year I really hope to see an African team do at least as well. That nearly happened at Italy 1990 when there were only 24 teams. Cameroon came very close to reaching the semi-finals that year, having lost very narrowly to England in their quarter-final. We’ll see what happens for the local sides next year with an African atmosphere at the tournament.
Jack A. Warner, FIFA vice-president and Chairman of the Organising Committee for the FIFA U-17 World Cup
On the organisation of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009
The principal lesson I’ve learnt from this tournament is that you always have to keep believing. I say that in particular for the Nigerians, because in their first match Nigeria were losing 3-0 to Germany. The spectators began booing their team and leaving the stadium – and today Nigeria are in the final and are getting ready to play in a full stadium which is ready to lift them up. Nigeria has shown it has the enthusiasm to organise a FIFA World Cup in a higher age group, but it’s not yet ready as things stand now.
On the next FIFA U-17 World Cup
The next edition will be held in Mexico, and as soon as Nigeria 2009 comes to an end we’ll start preparing for that. I’ll be going to Mexico as early as Monday with a FIFA delegation to carry out an initial inspection. Nine cities have put themselves forward as candidates to host games. So, as soon as the final whistle blows in the last match here, it will be farewell to Nigeria and welcome to Mexico!