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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Blatter reaffirms support for Japan


Visiting FIFA president Sepp Blatter told Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Monday that he hopes the Club World Cup in December will boost Japan's morale and aid in rebuilding efforts of the disaster-hit country.

News photo
All smiles: FIFA president Sepp Blatter meets Prime Minister Naoto Kan in Tokyo on Monday. KYODO PHOTO

Blatter told Kan at the outset of their meeting at the premier's office that he and FIFA were "happy" the Club World Cup will return to Japan after the tournament was staged in the United Arab Emirates the last two years.

Blatter, who said FIFA is considering pledging another $1 million to $3 million in emergency aid to the Japan Football Association, wished to send a message to the victims of the twin natural disasters on March 11 that "through football, there is hope."

FIFA has already donated $1.5 million to the JFA for the rebuilding of a sports medical facility in Fukushima Prefecture.

Kan, for his part, thanked world soccer's governing body for its assistance to Japan.

"Everything is ready to organize FIFA's Club World Cup. We will do it, and we will do it in December as scheduled," Blatter said during an evening press conference at JFA House.

"I wanted to address Naoto Kan, the prime minister, for his courage because he had to stand there with the nation and before the nation. I was very happy to meet with the officials of football but also the officials and leadership in politics to express the support of the whole (football) family in such a difficult situation."

Blatter, who also met with sports minister Yoshiaki Takaki, said hosting the Club World Cup laid proof the sports world was uniting to rally Japan.

The world gymnastics championships in October has been green-lighted, while the volleyball World Cup in September is also set to be held according to original plans.

"I am glad to see all the international federations are going in the same directions, the volleyball federation and gymnastics," Blatter said. "So there is again a solidarity between the sports organizations."

Said JFA president Junji Ogura, "We're very happy President Blatter took the time to come out all the way out here even with the FIFA Congress coming up."

"It was our wish for key government officials to explain to Mr. Blatter in person the situation of our country, so that he could decide on the organization of the Club World Cup."

Blatter's one-day trip to Japan came in the wake of foreign concerns over the nation's safety in hosting events following the earthquake and tsunami in March, and the ongoing nuclear power plant crisis in Fukushima Prefecture.

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