/ 22 November 2007

Blatter touches down for World Cup draw

Fifa president Sepp Blatter arrived in Durban on Thursday amid tight security.

His arrival ahead of the 2010 preliminary draw came on the same day that 2010 South African local organising committee CEO Danny Jordaan unveiled the 2009 Confederations Cup emblem at Durban’s International Convention Centre.

Blatter was welcomed at the airport by KwaZulu-Natal Premier S’bu Ndebele and Durban mayor Obed Mlaba. Security was tight and parking at the airport was at a premium as soccer team Orlando Pirates arrived shortly before Blatter touched down.

A statement issued by the KwaZulu-Natal premier’s office quoted Ndebele as saying: ”This is the biggest milestone yet on the road to 2010, and for this province it should motivate all of us to focus our minds on ways in which we can play our part in making this preliminary draw an overwhelming success.

”The draw should encourage the development of a desire to work together and show Durban and KwaZulu-Natal in the best possible light.”

Speaking at the unveiling of the logo, Jordaan said: ”The logo represents movement, celebration and joy. It’s a test for the World Cup, but it is a tournament of a very high quality and we hope what it [the logo] represents is displayed on and off the field. It will be a test for us.”

Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke said: ”It’s a sporting event on its own now as some of the best teams in the world compete in this event.”

Jordaan was joined on the stage by Marcel Desailly, who captained France to Confederations Cup victory in 2001; Bafana Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, who won the 2005 title with Brazil; and former Bafana skipper Lucas Radebe.

”I hope France make it to the Confederations Cup,” Desailly said. ”If they do then it means they have won the European Cup [2008]. The tournament is about entertainment for the people who fill the stadiums for these games. It is about the players enjoying themselves and the fans having a good time too.

”If France do make it to the 2009 tournament, they will join the hosts, Brazil, US, Iraq and the reigning World Cup champs Italy.”

Parreira said: ”This tournament is good for the players to experience the people, the hotels, the food, travelling, everything about that country. They can learn so much.”

Parreira’s team beat their fierce rivals Argentina 4-1 in the 2005 final in Germany. He believes South Africa should have a formidable team when the tournament comes around in just more than 18 months’ time.

”It ignites the World Cup fever and it can set South Africa in motion to be ready for the World Cup. I like the logo; it is very nice and represents the energy associated with the game. We should have a good team in 2009, but we must not forget the big picture,” he said.

”This [Confederations Cup] is the final preparation for the World Cup. I am giving players exposure to play in international games to prepare for the World Cup. We have played against Italy, Scotland, US, and all these games are preparation to build a team for the World Cup.”

Eight teams participate in the two-week tournament that starts on June 14 and ends on June 28.

Brazil booked their place in the tournament by beating Argentina in the final of the 2007 Copa America. Iraq beat Saudi Arabia 1-0 in the final of the Asian Cup to book their place and the United States beat Mexico 2-1 in the final of the Concacaf Cup to qualify for the Confederations Cup.

The winners of the 2008 African Cup of Nations and the Oceania Nations Cup make up the eight-team tournament. — Sapa