The road to the 2014 FIFA World Cup is paved with many milestones and the Preliminary Draw in Rio de Janeiro this July was the first highly demanding test for the host country, and everybody will agree that Rio and Brazil passed it with flying colours. Since then the football action has kicked-off on the pitches around the world for the 31 places to be won in the 2014 FIFA World Cup final competition. And it is the dream for every player and football fan – myself included – to be part of this special experience in Brazil. But for the teams it is a hard path to Brazil with many tears, thrills and dramas.
So far we have seen 216 qualifying matches played with a few surprises already such as American Samoa winning their first-ever international game, Jordan surprising in Asia as well as Guyana and Antigua and Barbuda booking their places in the penultimate round of CONCACAF qualifying.
I have no doubt that we will see more great football and major upsets with some 600 matches still to be played in all continents. Europe is joining the qualification mill as the last confederation in September 2012, and we can follow all this action live on FIFA.com.
I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome Ronaldo who joined the Local Organising Committee as a member of the administrative board. As a football icon and still the reigning best FIFA World Cup goalscorer of all time he is an ideal proponent to promote the event and support the organisation. Memories of our joint performance on stage at the Preliminary Draw are still fresh.
Together with the great Pelé, special advisor of President Dilma Rousseff on World Cup matters, the Minister of Sports Aldo Rebelo, the LOC and Ronaldo I hope to visit next year all 12 host cities starting in January with Fortaleza and Salvador. It would be definitely a very special trip for me to be on a FIFA World Cup mission with such outstanding football personalities.
But 2012 will also be a fundamental year for FIFA and Brazil in the operational preparation for the two major football tournaments – the FIFA Confederations Cup 2013 and the 2014 FIFA World Cup. There is still a lot of work waiting for all of us in particular on general infrastructure such as airports and transport to make sure that all fans and visitors will have a memorable experience.
As the person at FIFA responsible for the delivery of the FIFA Confederations Cup and the FIFA World Cup it is essential that I also get a personal view on the status of preparations during my planned host city visits to take place every two months next year. Because we have no time to rest, the clock is ticking ever faster and the anticipation is rising for all of us.
So no doubt, 2012 will be a busy year for us with important events such as the finalisation of the famous “Bill 2014”, the launch of the Official Slogan, the selection of the final FIFA Confederations Cup venues and the last three participants qualifying for the FIFA Confederations Cup.
Furthermore, we must bear in mind that when the EURO 2012 and the Olympic Games are over, the world media spotlight will be on Brazil. The key for success will be in continuing our open and constant dialogue between the Brazilian authorities led by Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo as the man in charge of the FIFA World Cup in government and FIFA in the spirit of respect and cooperation which characterises our relations now.
For now, it only remains for me to wish all our friends around the world a great festive season and a Happy New Year.