24 footballers with 24 questions for Blatter

FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter held a special question and answer session at FIFA HQ in Zurich on Monday. Putting him on the spot were 24 international footballers anxious to know his views on a series of issues they hold dear. Fielding their questions with his customary good humour, Blatter responded at length in an exclusive and unique interview that ranged over issues as diverse as African football, doping and the 6+5 rule. 

1. Cedric Kante (Panathinaikos and Mali defender): 
“Mr President, are you aware of the dreadful conditions that players have to endure when they travel to FIFA World Cup qualifiers in Africa and African Cup of Nations matches?”

Blatter: “I didn’t know about that but now I do. It’s a matter for the national associations. They’re the ones who call the players up. In doing so they have to safeguard basic standards of comfort and security so that these stars of the game, who are a little pampered if you ask me, can travel in comfortable conditions, or conditions that are decent at the very least. I don’t understand what’s happening with Mali, though. Do the Mali players have to walk to games or something?”

2. Didier Drogba (Chelsea and Côte d’Ivoire forward): 
“Every footballer dreams of playing in the World Cup. But trying to fulfil this dream can affect their health and their club careers. I remember one season when I had just seven days holiday and I know a lot of other players who have had the same problem. This year, for example, African players started their holidays on 20 June while our European colleagues, who play in the same club competitions, had already been off for two or three weeks by then. How can you explain such a big discrepancy, one that affects our health and undermines our interests?”

Blatter: “We have tried to create an international calendar that ensures players get a break in two distinct periods of rest. If the clubs followed the calendar then everyone would be on an equal footing. Unfortunately the clubs do their own thing and organise tournaments in Asia and the Americas just to make money, completely forgetting the fact that the players have to rest. The international calendar also includes competitions organised by the various confederations, but I can assure you that it does set aside enough time for players to have holidays. But when your name is Didier Drogba then things are different. Players like him are busy enough as it is with their sporting commitments but then they go and sign advertising contracts that force them to travel all over the place, which eats even more into their relaxation time.”

3. Aruna Dindane (Lens and Côte d’Ivoire forward): 
“We need to start looking at the way the African Cup of Nations is organised because more and more clubs are refusing to sign African internationals because they know they’re going to lose them for a few weeks every two years. Is there any way we can restructure the competition, which we all care about a lot, and be more flexible about when we stage the finals so we can reduce the negative impact it has on players’ careers? We could, for example, play in June in the milder countries (north Africa, Egypt, South Africa, etc) and hold the finals at the start of the year in countries with rainy seasons.”

Blatter: “Of course we can do that but it’s a decision for the African Confederation to take. We have asked it on numerous occasions to come into line with the international calendar. The competition is held in January, by which time the players, most of whom are based in Europe, already have half a season under their belts. They’ve already given quite a lot by the time the tournament starts, which is obviously a very important competition for them. And when it’s finished they go back to their respective clubs. Most of them then have to carry on with the national league and cup competitions and the European club tournaments. And if they end the season by playing in the World Cup then you can imagine just how tired they are. It’s impossible for a player to be on top form at three different times in the same season. The African Football Confederation needs to take this problem into consideration. Why do they want to keep staging the African Cup of Nations every two years? It’s because the CAF – the only confederation along with Oceania that doesn’t hold its major continental tournament every four years – is trying to make the national associations build stadiums. That’s fine but the Africans need to adapt, just as the South Americans have done with their cup competition. One solution would be to hold the African Nations Championship (CHAN), which is for locally based players only, in World Cup years. We’ve grown used to seeing African qualifiers do well at the start of the World Cup finals and then fall away because the players are tired out. We need to be aware of that and find a solution.”

4. Samuel Eto’o (Inter Milan and Cameroon forward): 
“I have already asked you this before but what can you do to monitor the progress of projects in Africa? There is so much misery back home that money just distracts people from the task in hand. I hope you keep on donating money for as long as the profits from the World Cup allow you to do so, but if you really want to help our continent, which I know that you do, then please make sure that that money goes to help as many people as possible.”

Blatter: “Eto’o is absolutely right and as he says this is something we have already spoken about. He knows we have made real progress on this issue. And he’s right to say that in general terms supporting development isn’t about donating money. It’s much better to set up projects and that’s exactly what we’ve done thanks to Win in Africa with Africa, the programme created by Jerome Champagne (FIFA’s Director of International Relations). With regard to aid I’d like to quote Confucius, just as I did in the first report I wrote on the development of football throughout the world in 1975: ‘If you want to help your neighbour, don’t give him a fish, teach him how to fish.’ If you give someone a fish, he will eat it and that’s it. But if you show him how to catch one, then that’s a different thing altogether. The same principle applies when you’re trying to develop the game. We’re not giving any more money through our aid programmes. We don’t need to give, we need to teach. And as a far as monitoring is concerned, every year we pick out 20 associations – ten of them selected at random and ten chosen by FIFA – and we order an audit. We’ve come across some cases of fraud; some of them in Africa, it’s true, and in Europe too.”

5. Robinho (Manchester City and Brazil forward): 
“As everyone can see African football is making progress, and that should continue at the 2010 World Cup. What can FIFA do to ensure the continued development of football on the continent?”

Blatter: (Putting on a Brazilian accent) “Robiiiinho. He’s the one who runs and runs and then runs some more. He did well at the Confederations Cup but he ran a lot. And he sucks his thumb when he scores a goal too. Robiiiinho. We’ve thought about this carefully and we’ve set up Jerome Champagne’s Win in Africa with Africa project to coincide with the 2010 World Cup. We have given the Africans the resources they need to develop, to continue making progress, but we can’t go and do things for them. The associations are stable and independent enough to put projects into practice. We saw that with the Confederations Cup, where the organisers showed they could cope with the pressure. That’s why I have complete confidence about the future. You can tell Robiiiinho from me that the Africans are capable of playing quality football and of developing everything that goes with that.”

he FIFA World Cup™ 
6. Stephen Appiah (Ghana midfielder) 
“Will FIFA give African countries wishing to host the World Cup in the future the same support it gave to South Africa?”

Blatter: “Of course. There have already been some excellent African bids to host the World Cup. Morocco have put in several and came very close to getting it, particularly the last time. Egypt also had a very good bid then, while the joint bid made by Tunisia and Libya was not far behind it and Nigeria put themselves forward too. I have no doubt about Africa’s ability to organise an event like this, another World Cup, but I think we should let the first one take place first of all.”

The role of footballers 
7. Jeremy Toulalan (Lyon and France midfielder) 
“What can you do to ensure that players are given a greater role and more responsibility within FIFA in the future?”

Blatter: “The players are the stars. Without them football would not exist. Clubs are the core units because you need somewhere to play, but the players are the central figures. Ever since I was elected President I have prevented conservative ideas from taking root at FIFA, particularly the view that we shouldn’t have anything to do with the players. We want them. We want to talk to them and exchange ideas with them because they are important to us. I was once a player myself you know. I didn’t play professional football but I played at the highest amateur level until I was 38, just before I started working at FIFA. I was still fit, I was full of energy. I was a centre-forward who always went straight for goal and my team-mates knew very well that when they gave me the ball that there were only two things that could possibly happen: I would either score or give the ball away. I was a selfish player and there was no way I’d ever give it back to another team-mate. Ok, let’s go back to the question. Obviously FIFA recognises the players for who they are, but we still need the support of a representative organisation. That’s something we’ve been working towards for the last few years with FIFPro, a process we stepped up with the signing of a joint agreement in Barcelona in November 2006. It was a long time coming perhaps but we got there in the end. What should know is though that there is opposition to this inside FIFA, in the Executive Committee even. What’s more there are still some people who are against us joining forces with FIFPro. They feel we shouldn’t have anything to do with footballers. When I hear things like this I have to remind them that it is the players, the entertainers, who form the foundations of our system. I keep saying that without them there would be no administrators and no elections to FIFA and other bodies. I love footballers too. That’s why, and better late than never, I’m delighted about the excellent relationship we have built up with them. Look at the Dispute Resolution Chamber, a type of industrial tribunal where employers and employees can meet. That’s great for football. We’ve forgotten about the players at FIFA. We think about the coaches and referees but not about the players. Times have changed, and not necessarily for the worse, but my predecessor did not have the same vision as me. The players were players. He was different to me. He was a swimmer and water-polo player but not a footballer.”

8. Herita Ilunga (West Ham and Congo defender): 
“Ex-footballers are getting more and more involved in running the African game and several of them now sit on the executive committees of national associations. There are still problems elsewhere, however. In light of that is there any likelihood of FIFA forcing associations to let two or three former players sit on their executive committees as full members with voting rights?”

Blatter: “We can’t impose that on them. It’s up to each national association to decide that. What you say is right, though. The carriages go wherever the train goes; that’s obvious. It also has to be said that there are more and more ex-players in charge of associations and we even have one in charge of a confederation (Michel Platini at UEFA). Ivan Hasek was elected president in Czech Republic last June, for example, and there are lots of other examples I could give such as Montenegro, Spain, Romania, Poland, Moldova and Bulgaria. Players are on the move, they’re getting organised and I have to say the agreements signed with FIFPro marked the start of all that. I think it’s fantastic. I’m only sorry that some associations still have the same old mindsets, particularly in western Europe and South America, whose confederation was created before Europe’s. I know the players have difficulty in making themselves heard.”

9. Nuno Gomes (Benfica and Portugal forward): 
“The problem of unpaid wages is becoming increasingly common all over the world. Can you explain why a sport that generates so much money is unable to pay its most important people?”

Blatter: “That’s something I just can’t explain. It’s a question of discipline and above all of the clubs honouring the contracts they sign with the players. I find it unacceptable that footballers aren’t paid. If there is a breach of contract, FIFA gives players the right to go to court. It’s also one of the few circumstances where we let them take that kind of action. And if they do not have the necessary resources in their country, they can also come to us and demand that their contracts are fulfilled. I also think it would be better if cases like this were brought to the attention of FIFA through the Players’ Status Committee or directly to the Dispute Resolution Chamber. We would give our support to the players because, as I said before, situations like this are unacceptable. We have the instruments in place. It’s just up to the players to use them.”

Sports law 
10. Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich and France forward): 
“Do you think clubs (or their national associations) should be punished for failing to adhere to court rulings on sports law? What can FIFA do to ensure that players can receive what is rightfully theirs without having to wait several years?”

Blatter: “Ribery? Is he still with his club? You don’t know. Ah well. If any decision made by the Resolution Chamber is not applied, the file is sent on to the FIFA Disciplinary Committee, which usually penalises the club for failing to respect the ruling. Obviously the club will use all the resources available to it and that takes time. Maybe we’re not tough enough. We ought to set a payment deadline and when that expires start deducting points and even demote sides. That’s the only way we can force clubs to give way, to take points away from them because financial penalties do not have the same impact. They don’t work. Clubs can always find a rich patron to help them out. Although our regulations allow us to deduct points, we never dare to go that far. But we have to take this kind of action as it’s the only way we can force clubs to pay.”

Laws of the game 
11. Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy and USA forward): 
“As you know football is becoming more and more popular in the United States. With the development of MLS, the USA now has a professional first division in place and apparently has a great chance of hosting the World Cup in 2018 or 2022. How can it be, then, that unlike other countries the USA is not required to observe FIFA regulations?”

Blatter: “But the USA does follow the rules of the game. When the North American Soccer League was in existence they painted an offside line at each end of the pitch, just like in ice hockey. But all that’s finished now. That’s why I’m amazed by this question. I really am. They are applying the laws of the game now, along with FIFA regulations. I’d like Landon Donovan to give me an example if he can and we’ll do what we have to straightaway, especially as we’ll be chairing the annual International Board meeting before the World Cup. Tell him to come and see me right away.”

12. Andrei Arshavin (Arsenal and Russia midfielder): 
“FIFA is continuing to improve and develop its Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players. To ensure standardisation throughout the world, national associations must structure their regulations in line with FIFA’s. The FAs are in no rush to do that, though, with the result that different conditions apply to players of different nationalities playing in the same championship, especially young players. Similarly, the Russian Dispute Resolution Chamber is not always set up in line with the FIFA regulations that came into effect in January 2008. Has FIFA brought in deadlines obliging associations to set up Dispute Resolution Chambers in line with the rules?”

Blatter: “Up to now Russia has been a little out of synch but they have come into line now. The Russian FA now has a new president, Vitaliy Mutko, who is also the Minister of Sport, and he’s taking things very seriously. As far as the Dispute Resolution Chamber is concerned, there are problems with other associations, particularly with the appointment of independent figures on the pretext of a lack of funds. That’s why we have made money available to small associations so that they can meet the cost of setting up national chambers. That’s not the case with Russia, though. They have great players and they are getting good results at international level. (To Daniela Leeb, Blatter’s press officer) Make a note of this Russia story. I’m going to monitor the file personally. With regard to the contractual freedom of young players that’s an issue that is decided at a national level. We at FIFA would like young players to sign their first professional contract at their first club. This first contract would last three years and then at the age of 21 they would be free to leave after the payment of compensation for training them. The rules are not very strict on this right now but they will be once the Lisbon Treaty is introduced, which recognises the specificity of sport and its organisation. When that happens then we can intervene and lay down rules within the framework of what we call 6+5, which comprises a lot of regulations. Our aim is to protect both young players and older ones, and the only people who are against this are the rich clubs, not the poorer clubs and not the players obviously. And there are a lot of national associations, particularly the former Eastern bloc countries, who are in complete agreement with it because they keep on seeing players move on within getting anything in return. Even the English FA supports it. But if you talk to the representatives of the Premier League, they’ll tell you it’s a stupid idea. Club presidents say they’re satisfied with the current situation and point the fact that they’re getting lots of new fans and are making lots of money. They just don’t see why we want to bring the system in.”

Calendar and competitions 
13. Mohammed Abou Treika (Al-Ahly, Egyptian international): 
“Why not review how the Club World Cup is organised, and in particular the first phase?”

Blatter: “We can’t organise this competition any other way without overloading the calendar a little bit more. Eight clubs take part and if we organise the opening phase along traditional lines, with two groups of four and three matches each, the competition would last two weeks like the Confederations Cup. That’s why we’re now going down the knockout-game route: quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.”

14. Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid, Argentinian international): 
“We all know the importance of television to modern football finance, but can’t we find a way to avoid playing matches at the worst moments of the day, which is something that undermines the spectacle? Players overwhelmed by the heat can’t give the best of themselves. The final of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing was the most recent example and a sorry one.”

Blatter: “It’s true that it was hot in Beijing. The comment brings to mind one from another Argentinian, Diego Maradona, who spoke up against playing matches at midday in Mexico during the 1986 World Cup. But you have to realise that, actually, in Mexico, football is most often played at 12pm to make room in the afternoon or evening for bullfighting. Each country has its own particularities and we’re obliged to make do, even if we go too far sometimes. In 1986, there were also games in the daytime and evening. In Argentina, in 1978, it was cold and rainy; in South Africa next year it will be cold. Seriously, we don’t choose kick-off times to suit television, especially since during the group stage we have to play three matches per day if we want to stay on schedule. Because of that, there will always be matches played in hot conditions when the World Cup is held in summer and in cold conditions when it’s held in winter. But to come back to the Olympic Games, I know that the Olympic Stadium was only available at 11am. The heat was terrible. After half an hour, contrary to the Laws of the Game, we took the decision to stop the match to cool the players off. But I should remind Aguero that playing the match at that time had nothing to do with television: 11am in China was 5am in Europe, and frankly that’s not the time of day that most people are in front of their televisions.”

15. Maxi Rodriguez (Atletico Madrid, Argentinian international): 
“How does FIFA intend to resolve the problem of matches played at altitude?”

Blatter: “(Excitedly) Oh, he’s good, our Argentinian friend! Really, all I can say is ‘well done’! When everyone in South America said, ‘We’re no longer willing to play in La Paz,’ the Argentinian Football Association came out and said they would still go and play matches in the Bolivian capital. That’s the first thing. The second is that Maradona took a helicopter ride with the Bolivian president, Evo Morales, to play football at an altitude of 5,000 metres and prove to the whole world that it’s possible to play football at that altitude. After that, Maradona left for La Paz with the national team that he coaches, saying: ‘I’m going to show you that we can play there.’ (He pauses) He lost 6-1 and now he’s got nothing more to say on the subject. But still, Maxi – who was a world champion with the Argentinian Under-20 team in 2001 – is right on the basic point: you can’t play as you normally would at an altitude of 3,700 metres as in La Paz. Even I, an experienced mountain man from Le Valais, had trouble breathing when I got off the aeroplane at the airport in La Paz, which is at an altitude of 4,000 metres. You can only win in the Bolivian capital if you take the time to train for a long time at high altitude, as Chile and Venezuela recently showed. But they’re a case apart because those two national teams either have no or few players playing in Europe, so they have the time to prepare and acclimatise themselves to high altitudes. With the way things are organised in the South American qualifying group at the moment, it’s impossible for every team to do the same. A qualifying group with ten teams is too much – every side plays 18 matches, which is a huge amount – especially since in Europe the principle of the two-game week (one match on Saturday or Sunday, then one on Tuesday or Wednesday) doesn’t help at all. But it’s money that decides. We’ll see what we do for the 2014 World Cup because, as hosts, Brazil will qualify automatically. A group of nine teams isn’t good.”

The 6+5 rule 
16. Michael Essien (Chelsea, Ghanaian international): 
“The majority of African players would like to know what impact the 6+5 rule will have on African players plying their trade in Europe. As these players help support the economies of their home countries, is there not a fear that this rule might have a negative impact by reducing the number of these players and thereby eliminating the help they bring their countries?”

Blatter: “Jérôme Champagne is going to answer this one for me. He’s my spokesman, aren’t you Jérôme? (There is much laughter, but the President means what he says. Jérôme Champagne takes over) The 6+5 rule will, along with other measures, contribute to improving international, continental and domestic football by reducing the gap between clubs, especially… (The President interjects) That’s the big thing about it! Right now, football is a two-tier system: there’s the football of the rich and the football of the less rich. I won’t say ‘the poor’ because they no longer exist in football thanks to the steps we’ve been taking. The rich have a monopoly on the best players. I like it when Essien says he’ll no longer be able to help his compatriots, but a player like him – and he’s not the only one – will always have a place with any big European team. He mustn’t forget that the big English clubs – and the English aren’t the only ones if you look at the trend in Spain spearheaded by Florentino Perez and Real Madrid – can buy up to 30 players who would be starters anywhere else. There can only be 11 on the pitch at once and even if you count any eventual substitutes you come to 14. What that means is you have 16 players left in the stands each week. The main idea behind 6+5 is not to prevent the big stars from outside Europe coming to play on the Old Continent, but to reset the economic balance, thanks to which we can then promote the sporting balance. And, to my eyes, that’s the most important thing. Resetting the sporting balance and fighting against the idea that football only belongs to the rich – that’s what’s really at stake with the 6+5 rule. 
Now, on the issue of the players, how many Africans, for example, have taken the major step of playing in Europe and how many, as it’s no doubt a minority, have been successful there? How many, having failed, can’t even return home or don’t dare to because they’re too ashamed? You sometimes find them in the second or third division in Belgium or France and, if that isn’t low enough, the first division in Switzerland. If we want football to be for the rich, and for them alone, then we’re heading straight for a wonderful professional league that won’t care about training youngsters and won’t care about their desire to play for their hometown club. We can avoid that with the 6+5 rule, just as we can give national teams their identity back within their own countries. While African players might be worried, their national associations have understood what’s at stake. At the start, lots of them were against the rule, but today I don’t know any that question it because they’ve understood that, while the best players have to leave, they need to make sure the others stay behind by offering them the means to make a decent living in their domestic competitions. The President of the African Confederation, Issa Hayatou, also shares this point of view after having been hostile to the project at first. That’s true across Africa, but it’s also true of lots of other countries.”

17. Harry Kewell (Galatasaray, Australian international): 
“The 6+5 rule will reduce the chances of Asian and African players being picked up by major European clubs, which will obviously hold back their careers. And since those players will no longer be playing at the highest possible level in club football, that will have a negative impact on the performances of national teams from outside Europe. Why do you think this situation is acceptable?”

Blatter: “The President of Brazil, Mr. Lula, told me something in January that I’m unlikely to forget: ‘Do something to stop the exodus of young Brazilian footballers to Europe. Please, Mr. President, because every year thousands want to leave without us knowing exactly where they’re going. Our own football needs them here and Brazil needs them because they’re Brazilian.’ That could serve as an answer to the question posed by Harry Kewell, who was already a great player as a teenager and is one of my daughter’s favourite players after she spent five years in Australia. If all the best players leave, the standard of football in a country suffers as a result. If only a few leave, the national competitions improve and that has positive repercussions for the national team."

Doping 
18. Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord, Dutch international): 
“Why does FIFA support the WADA Code, when this code restricts the private lives of footballers? Doping is only a minor problem in professional football, so the rules are excessive.”

Blatter: “Football is an exception of sorts as we negotiated an agreement with WADA that footballers not be obliged to give notice of their schedule hour by hour over 365 days like other athletes in individual sports. Now we’re coming up against legislation in individual countries which sometimes isn’t in line with the more relaxed approach accepted by WADA. That’s true of France and Germany, in particular. But we’re sportsmen and we’ll continue the fight to put an end to this witch-hunt. Not all footballers are suspects, as some would like to have us believe, because what sort of society would we live in if pretty much everyone was a suspect? I thought societies like that had disappeared, or can only still be found in one or two countries. We aren’t suspects in sport, though we remain liable to punishment if we’ve made a mistake. WADA shouldn’t be a police force but, like the International Board with the Laws of the Game, it should be a sort of guardian of the temple of doping. Guardian, not policeman.”

19. Gennaro Gattuso (AC Milan, Italian international): 
“With the help of the players’ unions, can FIFA either refuse to apply the WADA code or, and this would be the better solution, negotiate the rules and application of the anti-doping code with WADA?”

Blatter: “Let’s say that, right from the start, we were opposed to the drastic sanctions which looked to have each doping case result in a minimum suspension of two years. Today – and this is written in the Code – it’s made clear that each case needs to be examined individually. That’s to FIFA’s credit. We said it before WADA was formed and we restated it and defended it afterwards, simply because everyone should be punished according to the gravity of their offence. I agree with the point that doping is minimal in football, but because ours is the world’s most popular sport, we owe it to ourselves to fight it, since we’ve noted that there are 0.02 per cent cases of proven doping. That’s a very small amount but it’s still too high, especially if anabolic steroids are involved. Those who use these types of products are imbeciles because football is about much more than muscle mass. These products also lead to serious knee ligament problems as the ligaments can no longer support the weight of the muscles. So it’s both useless and dangerous. However, the most worrying thing, since there are proven cases, is the use of drugs: social drugs like cannabis, marijuana and even cocaine.”

Racism 
20. Florent Malouda (Chelsea, French international): 
“In France and at UEFA, where their President Michel Platini has spoken out, there is talk of the possibility of stopping matches in response to racist incidents in the stands and, to an even greater extent, on the pitch. What is FIFA’s stance on this issue?”

Blatter: “Stop a match? Yes, I read that and I’ll have to speak to UEFA because they’ve given referees instructions along those lines. Stopping a match for ten minutes – can you imagine what that could lead to? It would just be a question of getting ten people together in one corner of the stadium, then if things begin turning out badly for their team, they start to go ‘Ooh, ooh, ooh’ as soon as a foreign player gets the ball and you stop the match. And if, ten minutes later, that continues, you call off the match definitively. There are 60,000 or 80,000 spectators in the stands, so what happens? Who collects the dead bodies afterwards? No, no. We can only fight against racism by education. When there’s proof that racism exists at a certain club, which is always difficult to obtain, the only sanction, and I’m repeating myself here, is the deduction of points, because on this issue as well, financial sanctions are useless. But stopping a match, that’s dangerous.”

Violence 
21. Thierry Henry (Barcelona, French international): 
“When a referee is struck by a missile from the stands, the game gets stopped. When a player is victim of the same violent act, nothing happens. Can’t we take the attitude that the same cause should have the same effect and that we should stop matches as soon as a player is attacked in such a cowardly way?”

Blatter: “The first thing to say is that no one should attack the players and referee, and if that was the case, it would prevent demands like this being made. But once again, if one allows a match to be stopped, there will always be people ready to take advantage by attacking the players. How many times did referees suffer violence last season, out of the thousands of matches which take place every weekend? Thierry’s going too far with this. Tell him to come and see me, and I’ll explain it to him. (He addresses those present) Does anybody know how many times a referee has been aggressed during an international match, how many matches have been stopped because of that? (No answer) I know that it has happened in the lower leagues, at regional or departmental level.

Refereeing 
22. John Terry (Chelsea, English international): 
“What is FIFA’s position concerning the use of technology to help referees and their assistants?

Blatter: “Together with the International Board, we declared that if we possessed a technique for goal-line situations, or if we one day find a solution, we would accept it. But it has to be a solution that is precise, fair and immediate, because football is also the one sport that’s all about the moment. In South Africa, after the final of the Confederations Cup and Kaka’s disallowed goal – I personally thought the ball had gone in – an Italian journalist asked me a question (He affects an Italian accent): ‘Presidente, in tennis they have found the solution. You watch the line and you know if the ball has gone over or not.’ I had to explain to him that tennis is merely one-dimensional, whereas we need to cope with three dimensions: width, length and height. It’s a lot more complicated than knowing if a ball has touched a line or not. The second difference is that, in tennis, the game is stopped, whereas in football it carries on. During the trials with Hawk-Eye in England’s third professional division, seven cameras were placed each side of the goal. But, for one reason or another, it only took one of the cameras no longer seeing the ball to make a verdict impossible. When everything was working, it took no fewer than five seconds to get the results. Five seconds – that’s enough for the ball to be cleared and another goal chance to arise at the other end of the pitch. Imagine stopping the game at that moment. We need to find something better – that’s obvious – and while we wait for that we’ll be carrying out tests by adding two referees.”

IFA / FIFPro agreements 
23. Makoto Hasebe (Wolfsburg, Japanese international): 
”Can FIFA assure us that the Asian Football Confederation will start immediate negotiations with FIFPro Asia to take part in the development of players’ unions across the whole continent?”

Blatter: “Why hasn’t that started? After what we recently agreed with FIFPro in Africa during the congress of its African division in Johannesburg, and given the enthusiasm shown by President Issa Hayatou when he addressed the African unions, I will ask him to speak at the next meeting of the Executive Committee to report on the subject and invite the presidents of the other confederations to follow his lead so as to hold players and their representatives in the proper regard. Is that happening now in South America? Not really, it’s true. I want to go to Asia as well to move things forward.”

4. Shabani Nonda (Galatasaray, Congolese international): 
“Within the framework of applying the Memorandum of Understanding signed by FIFA and FIFPro, what are the guidelines for allowing African professional unions to play a full role in proposing ideas, particularly as the national associations have a tendency to favour the emergence of ‘yellow unions’ to smother the spread of truly professional unions in Africa?”

Blatter: “Nonda? He’s not the one who used to play for Zurich, is he? Yes! Ah… We never stop improving the Statutes and when they are rewritten, players will need to be given roles within national associations and also within the confederations. I know that in France, as in Italy, that doesn’t pose a problem, but in Switzerland it’s a total no go. In Switzerland, there are no coaches, referees or players in the major decision-making bodies. That’s a total nonsense and so it’s not a typically African problem. Indeed, a motion was recently proposed by Asia to give the men on the pitch some effective representation from the tip of the pyramid, FIFA, to the national associations, while including the confederations as well. We’re going to work on that project, we’re going to do it and, in keeping with our agreements with regards to players, it will be representatives chosen by FIFPro who will be called upon at every level. There are filters.”

Compiled by Stephane Saint-Raymond

 

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