Blatter plays up England's World Cup role

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The Independent Online

The FIFA president Sepp Blatter today welcomed England's World Cup qualification and insisted safety fears over the tournament in South Africa are being overplayed.



Blatter has been considered in some circles an opponent of the English game, with frequent references to over-spending and the lack of a level playing field in the club game.

But the World Cup will be better for having England take part, he said, economically as well as in a football sense.

"It's always important when the motherland of football is participating in the World Cup," said Blatter.

"Even more so perhaps in this case, South Africa being a member of the Commonwealth.

"The English will bring a lot to the tournament, on and off the field. With (Fabio) Capello, something has definitely changed for the good. I have sent a letter to the FA saying how pleased we were at FIFA. I know for a fact that South Africa is really happy."

Blatter was speaking after the ceremonial launch of the Coca-Cola World Cup trophy tour which will see football's most coveted prize transported to 86 countries during a 225-day journey around the globe.

Asked again about security at next year's finals, a topic which remains high on the agenda at every press conference Blatter holds, the FIFA boss pleaded with the world not to keep focusing on the issue.

"At this summer's Confederations Cup there was not one single incident and still the questions come," said a clearly riled Blatter.

"Eleven million travel to South Africa every year. Please stop saying it is not secure. Give me one country in the world that is 100 per cent safe.

"Even here in Switzerland, it is not a paradise. The question is whether the World Cup will be a success - and it will be."

Millions of fans will enjoy a rare close-up view of the authentic solid-gold trophy on an 83,274 mile journey which will take in all 54 African nations before moving on to other continents, with a planned mid-March stopover at Wembley.

Coca-Cola also announced it will present a special award for the best goal celebration at the World Cup finals.

For every goal scored and celebrated with a dance at 2010, the drinks firm will donate to their "water for schools" project that helps provide access to safe water in Third World nations.

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