No interference in game: Fifa

Sello Rabothata

Sello Rabothata

The Federation of International Football Associations has never had complaints from the local football mother body about any government interference in the game since its readmission to the world fold.

This was said by Fifa boss, Sepp Blatter, when addressing South African journalists at a media breakfast held at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Conference Centre before the 2010 World Cup preliminary draw in Durban yesterday.

"In fact the local structure is well organised because the LOC has government ministers as direct members and this makes our dealings easier than when many structures are involved. We have not heard of any problems from the local football association that there has been interference from the government," Blatter said.

He conceded, though, that Fifa was concerned about the progress, or lack thereof, at the stadiums in Port Elizabeth and Greenpoint in Cape Town.

"But, there are still more than 900 days to go and a lot can be done within that time. We are looking at the situation.".

In a wide-ranging discussion, Blatter pointed out that issues of security and transport, for instance, will always be there.

"This World Cup is for this continent, for this country. Security is a problem everywhere, even in Switzerland. We just have to take adequate measures," the Fifa boss said.

"Thousands of people will be coming to this country and will need transport to move around. In this country, not all 40 million people will be able to attend the games. We can have a fantastic World Cup. I believe the event is different in various countries. South Africa has to show the soul of the country.

"There are 150 other countries who are poorer. South Africa is a rich country and it must show the world what it is capable of. The World Cup is not only about money, it is about emotion, it is about hope."

Blatter said football is the world's most popular game and that is why when the World Cup is about to be staged "everyone is looking for problems".

"Of course there should be problems, it's a big event. There have been lots of negative reports doing the rounds and I appeal to you [journalists] to help us in this regard. Show people the positives.

"Reports that the place is not safe, hurt Fifa, but we believe security matters can be overcome. It all has to do with the determination of the country and its people. Football is more than just a game. It has more than 206 million participants worldwide, from players, coaches, referees, medical personnel and so on."

It was also important to have a strong Bafana Bafana and the country should prepare a good team that should be ready by the 2009 Confederation Cup, as in Korea in 2002.

Blatter admitted Europe does have an advantage in that with 13 representatives in the World Cup they have a good chance of winning it, while Africa has six.

Fifa is helping Africa as it has realised the shortcomings of some of the national associations on the continent and launched the "Win in Africa with Africa" project in which $70 million has been pumped into the continent.

l Bafana Bafana have since moved from 83rd position on the Fifa rankings to 77th.