Blatter reveals Olympic thoughts

During a press conference before the draw for the Olympic Football Tournaments, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter answered questions from journalists. Alongside him on the podium were BOCOG Vice President Yang Shuan, FIFA vice-president Chung Mong-joon, FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke and General Secretary of the Chinese Football Association Xie Yalong.

Joseph S. Blatter (on the Olympic Football Tournaments)
It is the first time that a women's competition will be played with 12 Teams. With the 16 men's teams, we have the only team competition at the Olympics that has 28 participants, the other sports only have 24.

On whether he has any concerns for the tournament
We are participating as one international federation - football - in the Olympic programme and we organise two competitions. We work in close cooperation with the BOCOG. We have no concerns about bringing our teams here and to play in this competition. I have now worked 32 years for FIFA and all the competitions I have witnessed so far have been huge successes. Beijing 2008 will also be a huge success.

About the current torch relay and the question of political boycotts
FIFA's position in all questions of boycott has always been the same - boycott will never add anything - especially not to sport. It does not exist in the FIFA philosophy and in the competition. We are here on a platform of sport and football. I do not comment on the issues in the international media. But if you have an Olympic torch that represents a message of Olympic spirit and its not possible that this torch can tour around the world, then something is wrong in the world. Either you are a sportsman and you go to a sports competition, or you are not. In our statutes, it's forseen that if you don't want to play, you are not forced to play in the Olympic Games. But everybody in football wants to play in world competitions, and wants to play in the Olympic Games. It will be the same this year.

On ideas to attract more attention to the Olympic Football Tournaments
The Olympic games are not played according to the international match calendar. So we took the decision after 1988 that to play the Olympic Games with a U-23 rule, and in 1996 we added three over-aged players per team - if the national associations want to do it. The quality is very high. If I see the list of teams qualified and the players of those teams, that want to come to the Olympic games, like Didier Drogba or Kaka, then it shows big interest in the Games. This is important.

How committed is FIFA to keeping football in the Olympics?
The football competition will be played in five venues. The spirit is not only in one city, it's in the whole country. The organisers so far have all applauded having football in the Olympics, in the format that the International Federation is putting together. Until 1980, it was a farce. It was only for amateurs. Since 1984, the Olympic Congress has thrown away the idea of amateurs-only. We have to live in reality, not in dreams. Olympic games suddenly got more important, because it was open for all players around the world. We at FIFA have a structure: the U-17 is the 'primary school', the U-20 is the 'college', the U-23 is the 'University' and the World Cup is the 'Masters'. We have a structure in our organisation. We don't change a lot in Olympic Football Tournaments, unless we are asked by the Olympic family, not to participate in Olympic Games. In 1908, football was the first team sport to participate in Olympic Games. In 1932, we were kicked out because there was professionalism coming into football.

Yang Shuan (BOCOG Vice President)
Over the last seven Years, FIFA and BOCOG have worked closely together on the plans and have created a friendship. The difference to other tournaments is that the football tournaments will be staged in five stadiums with the largest field of participants in Olympic history. This shows the great importance of football for the Olympic Games. So far, 70 per cent of the tickets for the Men's Olympic football Tournament have been sold. We think that after today's draw, more fans will be eager to watch the games.