Joseph S. Blatter unveils two Goal projects
FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter and his AFC counterpart Mohamed Bin Hammam kicked off their official trip to Central Asia with visits to Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
On Tuesday 27 March, the FIFA delegation touched down in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat, a city surrounded by the Karakum Desert. The chairman of the Turkmenistan Football Association, Aman Yusupov, was waiting at the airport beneath driving rain. It was immediately apparent that since President Blatter’s first visit to this country two-and-a-half years ago, the capital has undergone significant development.
The schedule commenced with an immediate audience with the nation’s Deputy Prime Minister, Hydyr Sarpalyev, who emphasised the importance for the government of supporting football and other sports, particularly at youth level. This commitment has resulted in the creation of two major national academies for the training of future athletes. The FIFA President expressed his approval of this initiative: “Sport in general and football in particular teaches youngsters about life, and each one who benefits from this kind of sports training becomes a better citizen.”
Blatter even urged the Turkmens to invest further in football. “You’re in the process of opening up to the world. You’re sure to become a tourist centre too, and football attracts fans from all countries.” The official opening of the association headquarters was next on the agenda, watched by numerous representatives of the media chilled by the torrential rain. Festivities consisting of traditional dancing and music were held in the brand new premises, which have been funded by the second Goal project from which Turkmenistan has benefited.
The next day, the FIFA delegation headed off to the village of Kipchak to visit the Spirit of Turkmenbashi mosque and the adjacent mausoleum of the Niyazov family. After this spiritual stopover, Blatter and Bin Hammam dropped into the Olymp sports school, which youngsters attend until the age of 18. A team training in front of the school offered the delegation a rousing welcome.
During the working session with the Minister for Sport, Derya Orasov, the FIFA president mentioned this academy as an example: “I am thrilled to see that you are developing our sport, not only at professional level, but also by investing in your young people. Football’s future depends on these youngsters and I congratulate you for taking the trouble to train and prepare them.”
At the end of the day, the delegation took its leave to head north for Uzbekistan. In Tashkent, the chairman of the Uzbekistan Football Association Mirabror Usmanov was there to meet President Blatter. “This country has clearly developed enormously since my last visit two-and-a-half years ago,” commented the Swiss.
After an evening of traditional entertainment, the delegation visited the association headquarters on Thursday morning. With the Minister for Sport, Rustam Kurbanov, at his side, President Blatter inaugurated the building and its new pitch. Mohamed Bin Hammam professed himself proud to observe that this first Goal project, approved in late 2003, had finally been completed successfully. “I know that, in a country prone to both tremendous rainfall and destructive droughts, this artificial pitch will be an invaluable asset,” he underlined.
The visit continued within the premises of the National Football School. A project to construct a modern centre to replace this one is already underway, within the framework of a second Goal project approved in early December 2006. “We support this technical centre initiative,” confirmed Bin Hammam in his capacity as President of the Goal Bureau. In the afternoon, Messrs. Blatter, Bin Hammam and Usmanov met with the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Islom Abdug’aniyevich Karimov.
The FIFA delegation’s Central Asian odyssey is not finished, as they are due in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan on Friday and Saturday.
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