A great honour has been bestowed on Joseph S. Blatter, with the FIFA President being named an honorary member of the German Football Association during the DFB general assembly. Blatter received the award from DFB president Dr Theo Zwanziger during a ceremony at the Philharmonic Hall in Essen.

Zwanziger paid tribute to Blatter, calling him a "a unique figure in world football and sport in general, someone who does not see football as mere competition with no value". The DFB president said Blatter's presence was a great honour, adding: "We want to thank you for everything that you have done for football, and we would like to express this gratitude by making you an honorary member of the German Football Association."

"This award has special significance for me, and I am delighted and honoured to be here in Essen," said the FIFA President. "I was very touched by the warm welcome and the kind words of the DFB president."

A number of high-ranking guests from the worlds of politics and sport, including federal chancellor Dr Angela Merkel, attended the opening of the 40th DFB general assembly, the main theme of which was 'Football is the future – emotionally, socially and sustainably'.

"We have a lot of important decisions to make over the next two days concerning the future of German football," Zwanziger continued. "But at the same time the DFB general assembly should also be about building bridges between two major events the country has been tasked with hosting. One of them, the 2006 FIFA World Cup™, has already taken place, with the second set for next year: the FIFA Women's World Cup," he added.

Chancellor Merkel, for her part, cannot wait for the 2011 event, saying: "I was in South Africa last summer and was very impressed by the football itself and by the atmosphere in the stadiums. Now I'm really looking forward to the incredible football tournament that will be taking place next year in Germany."