The final stage of his tour of Central America took FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter to Costa Rica and Panama. The President of world football’s governing body and his delegation met with leaders in both countries, took part in a variety of opening ceremonies and visited a number of the facilities that come under the Goal Project umbrella.

The first of the two stops was Costa Rica, which is well-known for its good rating in the Environmental Performance Index. The country, which covers an area of 51,100km2 and has 4,600,000 inhabitants, lives and breathes the beautiful game - much like most of its regional neighbours - and is set to host the 2014 edition of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.

The President of the Costa Rican FA (FEDEFUTBOL), Eduardo Li, was there to welcome the FIFA delegation in San Rafael de Alajuela, and together the group made the trip to the Palacio Nacional for an audience with the President of the Republic of Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla. The head of state passed on her thanks for the opportunity to host “the first World Cup in the Central American region”, before going on to sign an executive decree declaring the competition to be “in the public interest”.

“Costa Rica earned this World Cup thanks to an excellent bid presentation and its determination to develop women’s football in Central America,” said Blatter. “It serves as recognition for all the work carried out by their Football Association.”

The growth of football in the region is exceptional.

FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter on finishing his Central American tour

The following morning, alongside FEDEFUTBOL President Li and Rafael Salguero, a member of the FIFA and CONCACAF Executive Committees, Blatter travelled to San Rafael de Alajuela to visit the Complejo Deportivo FEDEFUTBOL Plycem (FEDEFUTBOL Plycem Sports Complex), which was built with support from the Goal Project. As a result, the people of Costa Rica have an FA building to savour, including natural and artificial pitches and a rehabilitation pool, to name just a few of the facilities built using ecological technology.

“Costa Rica wouldn’t be the same without football, and these facilities reaffirm that. There’s not been anything like it before in this country,” said the Vice-President of the Republic, Alfio Piva, just minutes before Blatter cut the ribbon to complete the official unveiling. Prior to an official dinner and subsequent visit to the new national stadium, the delegation took a stroll around the complex’s various playing fields, paid a heartfelt tribute to former FIFA Executive Committee member Isaac Sasso Sasso - who passed away in March - and carried out a press conference.

First stone laid in Panama
Next up came Panama, the final stop of the Central American tour, featuring a very special moment: the laying of the first stone of the Home of Panamanian Football. The building, which will house the central offices and auditoriums of the country’s FA (FEPAFUT), is part of Phase II of the Goal Project.

Beforehand, the FIFA President had been welcomed by FEPAFUT President Pedro Chaluja, who took the delegation to the Palacio de las Garzas to have breakfast with the President of the Republic of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli. The three men came together again later at the ceremony for the laying of the first stone, which took place at the Ciudad Deportiva Irving Saladino.

Martinelli thanked FIFA for its help and handed the official documents ceding the land designated for the future FEPAFUT headquarters to Chaluja, before the three men jointly laid the symbolic first stone.

“This is a great day for UNCAF and CONCACAF, because today we’re able to lay the first stone of a footballing headquarters. And it’s in no less a nation than Panama, who have qualified for the next editions of the U-17 and U-20 World Cups,” said the FIFA President, who later greeted both youth squads before performing the kick-off for national U-13 and U-15 competitions.

A press conference heralded the official end of the tour, which featured visits to seven countries in just seven days. The last word should go to the FIFA President, who summed up his tour by saying: “The growth of football in the region is exceptional.”