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South Africa 2010 Could Be Portugal’s Tournament

The President of the Portuguese football association, Gilberto Madail, was at the FIFA headquarters on official business on 10 July 2008. After holding discussions with FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter on the Portuguese FA’s statutes, as well as issues affecting European football as a whole, the 63-year-old, who has been in office for nine years, gave a short interview.
What brings you to the Home of FIFA today?
Gilberto Madail: My association has been working on a reform of its statutes for several months and I came here to give a progress update. I also wished to keep President Blatter abreast of the situation with the Portuguese FA and, more gene¬rally, to discuss European issues.
What were the subjects you dealt with?
Madail: The new Portuguese law on sports regulation, which we’re working on with the government. We want to make sure that the law doesn’t conflict with the association’s statutes or FIFA regulations.
Were you pleased or disappointed with Portugal’s exit from EURO 2008 at the quarter-final stage?
Madail: I was disappointed with our performance at the finals but pleased with our qualifying campaign, when we came out of a difficult group with eight quality teams. It was a sporting, financial and logistical challenge. Don’t forget that even though we’re a small country of just nine million people, we’re in the top ten and can rival major nations like Spain, France and Germany.
Your country’s FIFA World Cup 2010™ qualifying campaign will soon kick off. What are your fee¬lings going into that?
Madail: Denmark, Sweden, Hungary, Albania and Malta are our rivals. The team have started to move on after EURO 2008, and we have what you might call an obligation to qualify. Although I’ve got nothing but respect for our opponents,! think we can cope with any of them.
What will be your aim at the finals if you do qualify?
Maddil: South Africa 2010 could be Portugal’s tournament. We have to go out there with the conviction that we can go all the way, which was what we believed at EURO 2008. Our aim is to reach the semi-finals at least.
Portugal’s youth teams seem not to be enjoying the same degree of success as the senior side …
Madail: We used to be ahead of the game with our youth training programmes and this was reflected in the results. But now a lot of teams have closed the gap. We haven’t gone backwards; it’s just that the others have been catching us up.
What problems does the Portuguese FA currently face?
Madail: There’s a problem with foreign players at Portuguese clubs, without a doubt. If you watch a match between Sporting and Benfica, for example, you’ll see 12, 13 or even 14 players on the pitch who aren’t eligible for the national side. We have to protect our national teams. I don’t know exactly what form this will take, but we have to encourage the clubs who field more eligible players.
What can be done to change this situation do you think?
Madail: It is not a question of clubs going out and finding a Brazilian kid, bringing him and his family over to Portugal and claiming he’s one of the club’s “homegrown” players. That doesn’t go far enough. We’ve got a lot of Brazilians, but also players from the east [of Europe]. The 6+5 proposal could be a solution. Truth be told, I don’t think there’s an association in the world that’s against it.