FIFA impressed by medical preparations
© FIFA.com

After their first joint workshop in October 2007 in Kimberley, the leading medical staff of FIFA and the LOC Medical Officers met again on 21 February 2009 to discuss on the progress in the preparations for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. The focus was on assessing the local resources, infrastructure, manpower and operational plans that have been implemented in the meantime.

Chairing the meeting at the Sandton Sun Hotel Conference Centre in Johannesburg, FIFA Executive Committee Member and Chairman of the FIFA Medical Committee, Michel D'Hooghe, MD, welcomed the LOC Venue Medical Officers as well as their counterparts on the government's side led by Peter Fuhri, Director of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Directorate Unit from the Ministry of Health. He stressed that he came to listen to the colleagues and share his experience from eight FIFA World Cups.

The Deputy Minister of Health Dr Molefi Sefularo then greeted the attendants ensuring them of his full support. In his analysis of recent developments, the master plan based on the inputs of fifteen expert groups and developed by the national health World Cup Unit had suffered some delays but he added: "We will see greater and faster development."

The task and responsibility sharing between the LOC and the FIFA medical team was once more explained by Prof. Jiri Dvorak, FIFA Chief Medical Officer. Stressing the fundamental role of the LOC Venue Medical Officers as the coordinators in facilitating access of teams and FIFA delegation to health services, he recommended the restriction of the affiliated hospitals to those the VMOs are working with daily and have confidence in out of personal experience.

The LOC General Medical Officer Victor Ramathesele, MD, then briefly elaborated on the organisational structure of the LOC medical team as well as the links and coordination with the Provincial Coordinators of Health. Following that, the ten LOC Venue Medical Officers presented their organisation at the venues, their staff, the selected hospitals as well as the details on evacuation procedures, chain of survivals etc. in case of critical events. The FIFA delegation were very impressed with the professionalism and anticipative approach of the SA colleagues.

Environmental factors encountered in the different venues might influence the preparations and performance of players. Therefore, Prof. Tim Noakes of the LOC Advisory Board presented the results of a study investigating these factors. As the 2010 FIFA World Cup will take place in the South African winter, no problems are to be expected from extreme temperatures, neither with air pollution or radiation.

Peter Fuhri stressed the vast experience of the SA government with major sports events and laid out the organisation and structures already implemented as well as the detailed plans for the upcoming months. He stressed the need for close collaboration of all parties involved in the medical services with constant bidirectional flow of information.

The day was concluded by a short update on FIFA's anti-doping activities. Despite the fact that most doping tests are conducted in football, the incidence of positive doping cases for the true performance enhancing anabolic steroids in football is extremely low at 0.03%. Professor Dvorak explained the principles of FIFA such as the need for physicians to carry out the control in order to guarantee not only for confidentiality and mutual respect, but also for the education of the players during the sample taking procedure. The South African Institute for Drug free Sport will be invited as official observers of the sample collecting session at selected matches. Dr Pieter J. van der Merwe, PhD, Head of the WADA-accredited Doping Control Laboratory in Bloemfontain, assured that all FIFA requirements will be met, in particular regarding the brief reporting time for results as required by FIFA.

In his closing remarks, Dr Michel D'Hooghe expressed his deep satisfaction with the results of the workshop. "Never ever have I seen such far advanced preparation so far ahead of the FIFA World Cup. Your dedication and expertise is impressive. That does not mean that we can stop now, but we are on the best way to a most successful South African event."