(AFP) – Sep 15, 2008
CAPE TOWN (AFP) — FIFA president Sepp Blatter said on Monday he was disappointed with the recent performance of the national team of the 2010 World Cup host country South Africa.
"I am disappointed that during the years since 2004 when this World Cup has been given to South Africa ... the national team is not better," Blatter told journalists after a visit to the building site of Cape Town's Green Point Stadium.
He said it was "incredible" that Bafana Bafana had gone from being the African Cup of Nation champions in 1996 to failing to even qualify for the crunch tournament in 2008.
"I cannot understand it. It is the last moment now to move ... do something, move it," he said.
The FIFA president, who is making a courtesy call to a few of the country's stadiums on a visit to meet with South African leaders, has denied persistent media reports that the football body was considering a Plan B to host the event if the country failed to deliver.
Blatter was impressed with progress at Green Point where the stadium, which he termed "a real jewel" is rapidly taking shape, saying he had been touched by the opportunity to meet with construction workers who sang to him.
He echoed the sentiments of former South African President FW de Klerk who said he hoped the event would renew the spirit of togetherness that South Africa experienced after the end of white-minority rule in 1994.
"Whichever party we support, whatever faction within a party we support, all of us want 2010 to recapture the spirit of 1994 when we launched the new South Africa," De Klerk told media.
Blatter would on Tuesday make a private call to South Africa's first black president Nelson Mandela, whose release from prison organised by De Klerk set the country onto a path of reconciliation.
He said the visit would be the highlight of his four-day trip to South Africa, the first African country to host the tournament.
Blatter would also meet with ruling party president Jacob Zuma, who is set to become the country's next leader after corruption charges against him were thrown out of court on Friday.
The graft case has in the past month created concerns about the political situation in South Africa.
"The FIFA World Cup cannot suffer over any political issue that may arise in the country," Blatter said, later adding he was "absolutely not concerned" about internal problems in the country.
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