<i>Goal</i> project brings joy to Malaysia

FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter opened a three-day visit to Kuala Lumpur on 6 May 2007 by officially inaugurating the first FIFA Goal project in Malaysia, a floodlit football turf pitch in the premises of the football academy of Kuala Lumpur, in a colourful ceremony which included the participation of the teams that train at those facilities.

After exchanging high-fives with young players having witnessed their skills on the new pitch, Blatter congratulated the Malaysian FA, represented by its vice-president HRH Tengku Abdullah Ibni Sultan Ahmad Shah, for helping to developing this facility will provide. Blatter also thanked the Minister of Youth and Sports Azalina Othman Said for her support, including the 'gift' of the land for the project.

However, the FIFA President was quick to stress the importance of the local involvement in promoting the game. He indicated that while the world-governing body will continue to support the national associations in developing the game, it was the responsibility of the local football and government leaders to take the first step in requesting the specific assistance they need in order to create the necessary infrastructure.

The facilities will have a special focus on the development of youth and women's activities, although it will also be able to host training camps of national teams.  

The future is Asia
On 7 May, Joseph S. Blatter attended the 22nd AFC Congress Gala Dinner and Awards presentation, during which several members of the Asian football family were honoured for their many years service to the AFC.

One day later, under the title: 'The Future is Asia', the AFC Congress was conducted, in what proved to be a demonstration of the strong will of Asian football to develop and fulfil the potential to become one of the leading global areas of the beautiful game. The congress unanimously re-elected Mohamed bin Hammam as AFC President for a second term, while the entire AFC Executive Committee was also elected unopposed for the first time in history.

The development of Asian football at all levels, for youth and for senior competitions, for clubs and for national teams, and for both men and women, was the key element that dominated the session. The growing importance of the women's game was reflected in the revolutionary decision of the Congress to include in the AFC Executive Committee a minimum of four women - one of them a vice-president, starting in 2009.

A clear statement was also made to continue the development of the national associations and teams through the Vision Asia project, launched by Bin Hammam in 2002, and especially focussing on the youth of the continent.

The launching of a new, well-organised and entirely professional AFC Champions League from 2009 was addressed by the Japan Football Association president Saburo Kawabuchi, the founding father of the highly successful J-League, in his presentation: 'The future of professional football in Asia.' The building of a strong local fan-base, the construction of adequate stadiums and facilities, and the creation of good youth teams were some of the main points mentioned and which will have to be achieved in order to allow the best Asian clubs to compete with their counterparts from Europe and South America.

Finally, the participation of Australia for the first time in the AFC Congress was welcomed by the members of the Asian football family, who are looking forward to seeing the Socceroos compete in the forthcoming AFC Asian Cup.

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