Football a Positive Political Force
World football chief Sepp Blatter still considers China an attractive prospect to host an upcoming World Cup finals tournament, if it can meet the FIFA requirements for the event.
Asked on Australian public broadcaster SBS, whether those requirements include human rights or free speech conditions, Blatter replied, “No, otherwise we can give the World Cup to nobody.”
“If you go to the essence of human rights… any country if you go really, really in depth, somewhere the human rights are not totally respected,” Blatter told veteran reporter George Negus on the Dateline program.
“Not even my country, Switzerland.”
His comments come after a series of pro-Tibet and human rights protests marred the international Olympic torch relay.
The violent and deadly clashes in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa in March, between demonstrators and the Chinese authorities have created a climate of anxiety just a few months before the August Beijing Olympics.
Blatter says the problems in Tibet had been well known at the time Beijing was awarded the Games in 2001 and the International Olympic Committee could have told China the decision was conditional upon finding a solution.
He says that was not done. But for larger western nations to criticise the IOC for taking the Games to China and not imposing strict conditions, while continuing to manufacture in and trade with China: “It is hypocrisy”.
“The one thing that is absolutely true, [should] the [next] World Cup have been given to China, they would have had no problem whatsoever,” he says.
“Because no one will bother football.”
IOC key figures are distancing themselves from national politics amid calls that not enough is being done on human rights and the Tibet situation.
But Blatter feels some of the most significant contributions of his sport are off the pitch.
While Palestine is not recognised as a state by the United Nations, it is a member nation of FIFA, playing in World Cup qualification matches.
And Blatter hopes FIFA can one day stage a World Cup qualifier in the Palestinian territories.
“Without our intervention towards the authorities in Israel it would not have been feasible… for the Palestinians to leave their countries through the different checkpoints to go and play international matches outside of Palestine,” Blatter says.
“I would say this is a sports achievement, an achievement that football can overcome the boundaries of politicians and politics.”
Asked if football is bigger than any ideology or any religion in the world, Blatter says: “It is, and I am not immodest if I say that because we are not touched by religion, [but] all religions, they play football.”
On allegations of corruption, Blatter says FIFA is as transparent as it can possibly be and argues the organization is a force for good, shown through its work on stopping racism and child labour.
Asia Backs Blatter Plan
Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed Bin Hammam has announced his support for the controversial ‘6+5’ FIFA plan to limit foreign players in club teams.
The AFC chief says the move is a step in the right direction, despite opposition from the European Commission, which has rejected the idea, warning it contravenes EU labour rules.
“AFC doesn’t have a big problem when it comes to ‘6+5’ like Europe but we have to be prepared for the future,” Bin Hammam says.
FIFA Congress in Sydney last week gave Blatter and his executive committee sweeping support to explore the controversial system of six home-grown players and a maximum of five foreigners.
Blatter is seeking the quota amid concerns over the competitiveness of club competitions.
Bin Hammam says Asian clubs are limiting themselves to registering three foreign players but as clubs seek to establish themselves they may consider signing more foreigners.
“This can have a negative impact on young local talent,” he says.
Oz Focus on 2018 Bid Dispite Blatter Comments
Football Federation Australia chairman, Frank Lowy, reaffirms the organisation’s focus on the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
“I want to make it clear that we are aiming to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup,” he told reporters.
“While I understand that there is a view emanating from Europe that it may well be the turn of Europe to be the hosts in 2018, the fact is football is a world game.”
The comments by Lowy follow media reports on the final day of FIFA Congress in Sydney last Friday, suggesting that Australia will be better served if it bids for the 2022 World Cup.
“Europe has unquestionably been the focus of football growth and development for much of the past 80 years,” he says.
“But the future of football is in the ‘new world’ – that is, the developing and growing regions of the world such as Asia.”
Lowy says the Asian Football Confederation is located in the fastest growing region in world football, as well as having the fastest growing economy.
He says if Australia is not successful in 2018 it will not rule out bidding for 2022.
A 2004 study by URS Finance and Economics on the economic impact of the 2003 Rugby World Cup found that the total ‘value added’ to the Australian economy had been $275 million.
By comparison, the same study noted that the total value added for the Sydney Olympic Games was $6.19 billion, and for the FIFA World Cup held in Japan and Korea in 2002 was $26.42 billion.
With reporting from Anthony Stavrinos in Sydney .
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