En route to the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan, Joseph S. Blatter stopped off in the Philippines on Friday to attend the national FA's 100th anniversary celebrations.
After a whistle-stop visit to Singapore's Changi Airport, where he dropped in at the very first FIFA store (due to open its doors on 16 January 2008), Mr Blatter headed to the Philippines, a country of 85 million inhabitants and made up of more than 7,000 islands. His first port of call was an afternoon press conference at the Philippine FA's headquarters, where he was joined by PFF President Jose Mari Martinez, and the President of the Asian Confederation Mohamed Bin Hammam.
Mr Martinez began by speaking of his delight at welcoming the two international organisations to his country. "We have been looking forward to the opportunity to work hand in hand with FIFA and the AFC to develop Philippine football." In response President Blatter said, "The FIFA family, which includes FIFA and the AFC, is here to help the Philippines promote the development of the sport in a country that has a long footballing tradition."
Paulino Alcantara and the futureTwo Goal Projects have previously been implemented in the country. The first of them involved the construction of the national coaching centre and adjoining pitches in 2001. This was followed in 2006 by the building of a stadium devoted solely to football in Manila. And while basketball remains the No 1 sport in Philippines, the game does have a very large following, having been introduced in the country many years ago (click here for linked article), as AFC President Bin Hammam explained. "The Philippines has a longstanding tradition of football, as shown by the 100 years of the PPF's existence. It is our sincere wish that this symbolic number is but the platform for the future development of Philippine football."
To mark its centenary the national FA organised a gala dinner that combined traditional music and dance. Other highlights included a video narrating the history of the PFF and a special ceremony recognising the achievements of the country's greatest players, among them Paulino Alcantara, who enjoyed two lengthy spells with Barcelona at the start of the last century.
Blatter took the opportunity to speak of the country's rich footballing heritage. "Football in the Philippines goes back a long way. You were founder members of the AFC and one of the oldest members of FIFA. I truly hope that this one hundredth anniversary presents you with the opportunity to bolster the development of the sport in your country and to set new goals for the future."
Following the evening's festivities the joint FIFA/AFC delegation will visit the Tuloy Sa Don Bosco Children's Village on Saturday, where the PFF will stage a special youth tournament.