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Last Updated: Monday, 18 June 2007, 16:34 GMT 17:34 UK
Blatter: SA will stage 'wonderful' WC
Fifa president Sepp Blatter
Fifa president Sepp Blatter will inspect facilities for the tournament

Fifa president Sepp Blatter declared on Monday that South Africa are on course to stage a "wonderful" World Cup in 2010.

He dismissed criticism of the country's hosting of the tournament as nothing more than jealousy.

Blatter, making his first visit to South Africa since work began building or refurbishing 10 stadiums in nine cities, said that his earlier fears about the rate of progress had been allayed and preparations were on target.

"If you are good, people are envious about you and even jealous about you," Blatter said at a press conference at Soccer City on the outskirts of Johannesburg which will host the opening ceremony and final.

"To organise the World Cup in South Africa, there's a lot of jealousy because people say they can also do it somewhere else. They cannot because it will be a wonderful World Cup."

Questions about South Africa's ability to stage the tournament in 2010, the first time that the world's biggest sporting event will be staged on the world's poorest continent, have lingered despite the insistence from organisers that they are ahead of schedule.

Blatter himself fuelled some of the scepticism last September when he said he wanted to see "pickaxes and shovels" swing into action.

But after surveying the building work at Soccer City, where the old stands have been razed to the ground, Blatter said that dump trucks were now the order of the day.

"From what I have seen here today and from what I have heard I can say generally we are on track," said the Swiss.

"I am a very optimistic man and I am very positive."

Blatter's comments came after he held talks in Johannesburg with senior members of the Local Organising Committee (LOC), including its chief executive Danny Jordaan and chairman Irvin Khoza to discuss preparations.

He will travel down to Cape Town on Tuesday to view building work on the Green Point stadium which is being built from scratch to host one of the semi-finals and which has run into opposition from some local residents.

Blatter is also due to hold talks during his two-day visit with South African President Thabo Mbeki who pledged last week that Blatter "will find us well on course with our preparations."

Khoza was delighted by Blatter's show of confidence, pointing to the flurry of activity from the hundreds of construction workers.

"We acknowledge his confidence and trust in Africa," said Khoza.

"He is here to see for himself. The pickets and shovels behind us (show) that we mean business."

An editorial on Monday in Britain's best-selling newspaper The Sun wondered how the organisers could sleep at night and suggested that the newly-reopened Wembley stadium would be a better venue for the final.

Blatter, who has previously acknowledged that England is one possible fall-back option, said that only an act of God could deprive South Africa of the tournament.

"You may be assured that nothing, nothing can now be against the World Cup here in South Africa," he said.

"We are asking the blessing of the Lord, We are asking the blessing of the whole football family that finally Africa can stage the World Cup."

The tournament will be the first time that Africa has hosted the event, which is expected to attract up to half a million foreign visitors.

SEE ALSO
Blatter heads to South Africa
08 Jun 07 |  African


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