The 55th Ordinary FIFA Congress was opened in the Palais des Congrès, Marrakesh, today - Sunday, 11 September 2005 - with a truly spectacular ceremony. It is the first Congress to be held on the African continent in the 101-year history of FIFA.
In his opening address to those assembled for world football's supreme body in the Moroccan royal city at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter extolled Africa's contribution to football. "Africa always used to go away empty-handed. But we hope that this Congress and the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ will serve to make up for some of the omissions of the past," declared Blatter in his opening address to an audience of approximately one thousand, including delegates, Moroccan political dignitaries, guests and reporters.
Morocco's Prime Minister, Driss Jettou, for his part, praised FIFA's crucial role, expressing the hope that the gathering in Marrakech would enable FIFA to "build on its phenomenal contribution to the development and global expansion of football, and to tackle new challenges in its second centenary."
A group of young footballers from Marrakesh welcomed FIFA symbolically by presenting the FIFA President with a mosaic. After a moving film highlighting the manifold celebrations for the FIFA Centennial in 2004, FIFA then cast its eyes forward - to Africa. The dance number by "African Footprint" mirrored the message to the Congress participants of a united future for all humankind, regardless of one's roots or religion.
The Congress will be continued on Monday, 12 September 2004. One of the items on the agenda is the prospective affiliation of Comoros and East Timor as the 206th and 207th members of FIFA respectively. Some amendments to the FIFA Statutes are also planned. Furthermore, in his key speech, the FIFA President will highlight current problems affecting global football and invite football's electoral body to comment on them.