JOSEPH S. BLATTER
By 25 November 2007, if not earlier, the (football) world knew that the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ would be staged in South Africa. Not that this was not public knowledge before. More importantly, the country on the Cape of Good Hope and the local organising committee conducted a brilliantly successful preliminary draw in Durban, giving a very favourable account of themselves and stopping the sceptics in their tracks.
The motto of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, “Ke Nako. Celebrate Africa’s Humanity”, was also announced at the draw. It combines two important elements. Ke Nako means “It is time” whereas the second part stands for Africa as the cradle of humankind and humanity.
It is indeed time that we greeted this continent and the host country on an equal footing instead of looking down on them as in the past. But there are still many hurdles to be cleared before we reach 2010 and we cannot expect everything to run like clockwork. But South Africa’s determination, readiness and especially its suitability to organise a magnificent World Cup are indisputably there for all to see.
Even though the World Cup qualifiers have already started in some confederations, 2008 will witness several other tournaments too. The two women’s youth tournaments – the U-17 in New Zealand and the U-20 in Chile — will throw the spotlight on the other half of humanity who are playing an increasingly important role in football. The women footballers will be attracting at least 50% of public attention at the Olympic Football Tournaments in Beijing and other Chinese cities, given that their tournament will be contested by the countries’ senior teams, although the men’s tournament will be no less appealing. Experience has shown that the U-23 national teams, rounded off with three older players, usually present the next generation of first-rate players who will be leaving their mark on future World Cups. We can also look forward to the Beach Soccer World Cup, to be held this summer for the first time in the French city of Marseilles, not Rio de Janeiro. To make up for it, Brazil will be welcoming the world’s futsal elite to the sixth Futsal World Cup in October whereas Japan will be entertaining the world’s best
clubs at the Club World Cup for the fourth time around.
Before these two treats awaiting us in the second part of the year, Sydney will be the backdrop to the FIFA Congress in May. For the first time in the history of FIFA, our football parliament will be guests “Down Under” in Oceania, although in footballing terms Australia now belongs to the Asian Football Confederation. It is indeed time for FIFA to experience this premiere in a history spanning over 100 years.
We shall continue to do everything in our power this year to develop the game, touch the world and build a better future – not only on the pitch but also beyond. Not alone, but with the help of the entire football family. Not for ourselves, but for the game and for the world.