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In his speech to the delegates of the 206 FIFA member associations in attendance, a number that was subsequently increased to 207 with the admission of Montenegro, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter explained FIFA's new objectives and stated that social responsibility would take centre stage.
In his address, the President spoke about the challenges that lie ahead: "This Congress has to show us the path that our wonderful football movement and the FIFA family needs to follow. Away from the headlines about major tournaments and matches, football has so many hidden stories to tell about the game's power and aura". With that in mind, in autumn 2007 FIFA will present 26 short films and make them available, free of charge, to the world's media in order to take such aspects of its activities to a wider audience.
Blatter explained that FIFA's duty to take its social responsibility even more seriously was due to the popularity of football and the resources that are now available. "FIFA is now in a comfortable financial position and we have to use those resources. But that is not enough. Social responsibility begins with each and every one of us," said Blatter in an appeal for everyone to use their hearts and minds to help, in line with FIFA's new slogan of "For the Game. For the World." (see separate media release).
In that regard, AFC President Mohamed bin Hammam praised Blatter's work in the Goal Programme. "We thank you for your vision, which since 1999 has given FIFA's associations 96 headquarters, 171 technical centres and 45 artificial turf pitches," said Bin Hammam. That has led to enormous improvements."
Prior to Bin Hamman's address, the President had looked back upon various decisions that FIFA had taken in recent years to make football stronger, such as its efforts to promote women's football and to include players in the decision-making process by signing a memorandum of understanding with FIFPro, the international players' organisation. Blatter also described the decision passed by the FIFA Congress in Zurich in 2000 with regard to introducing a rotation system to take the FIFA World Cup™ to each confederation in turn as a "milestone". "That decision made it possible to give the 2010 World Cup to the African continent and to South Africa," said Blatter. "The World Cup will definitely be held there. Plan A is South Africa, and so is plan B, C and D." CAF President and FIFA
Vice-President Issa Hayatou (Cameroon) will be the chairman of the Organising Committee for the FIFA World Cup™.
Blatter also issued an appeal for the G-14 clubs to withdraw all of their claims and to incorporate themselves in the football pyramid through their confederation: "We believe in dialogue, not confrontation".
Blatter also touched upon FIFA's legal dispute with MasterCard regarding the awarding of partnership rights in the financial service category and pledged that, "Even though this pending dispute will cost FIFA considerable money, we will not restrict our financial support for which we will continue to use 70 per cent of our resources." At the same time however, he also urged the associations to not only take FIFA's money, but to also take an active role in promoting their own development.
The FIFA President said that football faced dangers in the shape of corruption, doping, cheating and racism, but he also took the opportunity to praise the four British associations for their decision not to tolerate the comments made by their Vice-President-elect, John McBeth, and to withdraw his nomination instead. At an extraordinary meeting on 30 May, the four British associations - England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - had named The Football Association chairman, Geoff Thompson, as their new FIFA Vice-President. Thompson was therefore officially installed during today's congress proceedings.
In closing, Blatter reiterated FIFA's determination to safeguard the autonomy of football: "Sport has be able to manage itself. We need to have the strength and the courage to accept that responsibility and to settle our own affairs."
He also stressed that protecting the very nature of the game was just as important: "Football is a game of the people for the people, a game with mistakes and errors. Let us defend the human face of football!"