Blatter: 2010 will be a success
© AFP

With 48 days to go until the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter invited reporters from around the world to Home of FIFA in Zurich for a news conference, which was simultaneously broadcast via interactive video conferencing to Johannesburg in South Africa. Accompanied by FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke, the FIFA President discussed various topics relating to the first world finals in Africa.

FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter:

On the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa
When I became president in 1998, my greatest goal was to see the FIFA World Cup played in Africa. It would never have been possible without our rotation policy. It’s taken a long time, but ultimately it means justice for Africa, and for everything Africa has done for football in the past. This FIFA World Cup will be a success. However, no-one can guarantee that everything will be perfect. We also want the World Cup to leave a lasting legacy in Africa. Our priority is the fight against poverty, illiteracy, and health care problems, which we’re tackling with our “Football for Hope” initiative, the “20 Centres for 2010” which we’re constructing in Africa, and the “1GOAL: education for all” campaign.

On the threat of match-fixing
We established the “Early Warning System” (EWS), which has done a huge amount to help in this respect. The EWS cooperates with official betting organisations, and the system has been progressively extended, after liaison with UEFA and the German FA, and with support from Interpol. We should be warned very early indeed if anything threatens to happen at the World Cup. Illegal match-fixing can only be eradicated by state intervention and support from the authorities.

On the socio-political impact of the FIFA World Cup
Football is the only sport which brings all cultures together. No other sporting discipline can do this. We all hope Nelson Mandela’s dream of attending the opening match at the FIFA World Cup will become a reality. This World Cup will prompt the complete integration of all the people in South Africa.

On the significance of the FIFA Word Cup finals
The thinking behind the FIFA World Cup finals is not simply to organise it where it’s easiest. A World Cup belongs to the whole world, it belongs to all players. So everyone has the right to bid for the tournament, provided certain basic conditions are fulfilled.

On security
We have no doubts whatsoever in our ability to organise a secure tournament. Eleven million tourists visit South Africa every year, so why should people stop coming because it’s the World Cup?

On the South Africa team’s chances of progress at the finals
If they play like they did in Thursday’s friendly, a goalless draw with Korea DPR, they won’t score many goals at the FIFA World Cup. The object of football is to score goals, so if the South Africans intend to progress, they’ll obviously need to score.

On the legacy to Africa
FIFA on its own cannot bestow any kind of legacy. We need support and commitment from governments. Two years ago, we met the President of France Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in London. They supported us in promoting education and upbringing. They committed to invest  USD 1 million in schools and education. In the meantime, many other countries have joined in, including Spain, the Netherlands, Brazil, Belgium and Germany. We also initiated the “1GOAL: education for all” campaign, co-chaired by Queen Rania of Jordan. We do need help from representatives of EU countries. We can provide the software, but the hardware has to come from others.

On the problem of numerous African players moving abroad to Europe
Our “Win in Africa with Africa” project is aimed at helping smaller nations establish professional or semi-professional leagues, so that players there can also live from football at least to some extent. The African Football Confederation (CAF) has also launched CHAN, a tournament only open to players active in Africa. These two initiatives should prevent African players simply fleeing the continent. But Africa has to organise itself too. To prevent transfers of player under 18, these players urgently need to be registered. Otherwise, we can’t step in and help them.

On the African teams’ chances at the 2010 FIFA World Cup
African players are at least as talented as players from Europe and South America. The only things they occasionally lack are tactics and consistency. It’ll be hard for them at the FIFA World Cup, because there are only six African participants, but there are 18 teams from Europe and South America, so they have an advantage. I do think the world of football would like to see an African team in the FIFA World Cup semi-finals. Remember Cameroon in 1990 or Senegal at the 2002 finals. The FIFA U-17 World Cup has been won five times by African teams, and Ghana recently won the FIFA U-20-World Cup for the first time. African football is coming on nicely, but it can’t keep developing if the best players are always taken away. The African teams now have the opportunity to show what they can do on the field of play.

FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke:

On the state of preparations 48 days ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup
I think if the FIFA World Cup were to start in the next few days, we’d be fine. The training facilities will be finished by the time the teams arrive, and the stadiums are already finished and ready for kick off on 11 June.

On ticket sales
We definitely won’t be giving any tickets away, or selling them at reduced prices. In the last eight days, we’ve sold 200,000 tickets in the fifth and final sales phase. We’re confident that the stadiums will be filled to at least 95% capacity. Even the FIFA World Cup in Germany was not a 100% sell out. However, we should have opened the direct ticket sales points in South Africa earlier. We also started by limiting applicants to four tickets each, but some people want to attend matches with a larger number of friends. We need to bear this in mind for the future. We definitely need to be more flexible. Maybe we should consider ticket centres in the countries whose teams have qualified for the finals. In this respect 2010 is proving a good learning experience for 2014.