FIFA President In Sout-East Europe
FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter paid an official visit to Serbia, Montenegro and Georgia between 9 and 12 October. His busy schedule included discussions with presidents of football associations, an inauguration ceremony for a Goal project as well as attendance at an international match.
The FIFA President and his delegation touched down in Belgrade on 9 October. “This is the first time that I have been here as President,” said Blatter, clearly delighted to be visiting the “white city”. Later that evening he attended an official dinner with Ivica Dacic, Vice-President of the Republic of Serbia and Minister for the Interior, as well as with Tomislav Karadzic, the President of the Football Association of Serbia, and the chairmen of local clubs Partizan and Red Star Belgrade.
The following day, the FIFA delegation had a reception with Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic. In the presence of the Serbian Minister for Sport, Cvetkovic mentioned the fact that unlike most FIFA member associations, the Serbian FA still does not have an official headquarters built with support from FIFA. “If we are to carry that out, we will need land as well as support from your government,” replied Blatter. Once the Prime Minister had been informed of the Serbian FA’s projects that are being supported by FIFA and UEFA, he promised to put his weight behind the schemes.
Prior to Blatter’s departure, President Tomislav Karadzic presented his FIFA counterpart with the highest honour in Serbian football-the “Diamond Ball”
- as a token of his gratitude for the FIFA President’s work and support for the development of football.
On 10 October, the FIFA delegation continued their travels by moving on to Montenegro, where they were received by Prime Minister Milo Dukanovic, who plays an active role in his country’s football scene. “I believe in football’s ability to help the development of our society,” he said. “It will enable us to put ourselves on the international map more quickly.” Afterwards, it was Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic’s turn to welcome Blatter. “We are grateful that FIFA integrated us so quickly as a new member,” said the President before underlining his support for football in his country. He showed his pride in the progress that has already been made by presenting the FIFA President with the Danilo Cross, a symbol of Montenegrin independence.
“I’m pleased to see that football is in a very healthy state here on this, my first visit to a very young association,” said a delighted Blatter. “Football is a genuine school of life that teaches us rules, discipline and fair play, and while we will not all go on to become world champions, we can still take away the lessons we have learned for the rest of our lives. You have every reason, therefore, to believe in the benefits of our sport for your society.” The FIFA President then inaugurated the football association’s technical centre together with Dejan Savicevic, the President of the Montenegrin FA, and Miomir Mugosa, the mayor of Podgorica. The sun was shining upon the ceremony to open the new building, which is bright red to match the strip of the national team.
On 11 October, after flying over the Caucasus to Georgia, the FIFA President immediately headed out of Tbilisi to visit the new Georgian FA training centre and artificial pitch built as part of the Goal !l Programme. “I am pleased to be here at this training centre, which is a symbol of the future of football in your country. You can always rely on the younger generation and the progress they will make,” he said to Georgian FA President Nodar Akhalkatsi junior.
Blatter then paid an official visit to the Georgian parliament to discuss the ‘ country’s most popular sport with David Bakradze. The head of parliament said that he was delighted with the visit and underlined the importance of football’s role as a peacemaker in Georgia. He then presented the FIFA President with a golden lion – a symbol of strength and courage. :
Finally, the FIFA President headed to the Boris Paichadze National Stadium in Tbilisi to watch the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifying match between Georgia and Cyprus. Immediately prior to kick-off, Blatter awarded a posthumous FIFA Order of Merit to the late Nodar Akhalkatsi senior, the founder of the Georgian FA. The award, which was accepted by his son, was in recognition of Akhalkatsi senior’s efforts to promote football in his country as a player, coach and official.