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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 November 2007, 12:49 GMT
Blatter downplays crime fears
Fifa President Sepp Blatter
Hosting the World Cup could help South Africa overcome its social ills

Sepp Blatter has defended the decision to bring the football World Cup to Africa for the first time.

The president of football's world governing body Fifa said any organisational problems would be overcome and also downplayed fears over crime.

Speaking ahead of Sunday's qualifying draw for the 2010 tournament, Blatter said the World Cup could help solve the social ills of the hosts South Africa by acting as a catalyst for development.

"After having meetings with the organising committee and local organising committee, we are very confident that we are still going strong towards the realisation of a wonderful event," Blatter told reporters in Durban.

Strikes have dogged the programme to build or revamp the 10 stadia which will host the tournament.

But Blatter said he had spoken with some of the workers and was sure that any industrial disputes could be resolved.

"The World Cup is the biggest event in the world of sport and that's normal there are problems ... but all problems have a solution."

Some have questioned whether the tournament was diverting funds needed to develop South Africa in the post-apartheid era.

While the Fifa president acknowledged some people would prefer the money to be spent differently, he stressed that was not the view of the majority.

"Football can help solve these problems," said Blatter.

"The Republic of South Africa has made a big, big effort twice to organise this competition.

"If a country is asking to organise a World Cup they know exactly what it means when they want to go in this big, big competition."

The killing of an Austrian tourist over the weekend in Durban has again underlined fears over safety for visitors in a country where around 50 people are murdered every day.

But Blatter said such a tragedy could occur anywhere in the world.

"In a city of 3.5 million some crimes are possible like in all other countries.

"On Friday evening in a bus station or tram station in Zurich a young girl of 16 years old was shot ... crime is everywhere," added the Swiss.

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