Monday, June 05, 2006

Dinners are really about people, not food...

Each time the FIFA Executive Committee meets, it organizes a dinner to give the members the opportunity to interact at a social level. Things weren't always as civil as they are today and it was an excellent tool at the time to remind people that no matter what their differences may be, sitting down to dinner and talking can keep us together.

I have noticed, during recent dinners, that we may have forgotten why we began those dinners and that the interchange between groups gave us the opportunity to gain a better understanding of each others issues in a less formal setting than the board room. The key principle that is missing today was the advantage that was created by putting people together from different geographies with other languages.

Now, I find that I am seated regularly with people who speak English and most often, those who I end up with at meals on a normal basis. Opportunity lost. Whoever is afraid of mixing us up should stop worrying. We manage to speak with each other without the aid of interpreters in at least 3 languages. For the few who are limited, there is always someone at the table able to make the connection. So, shake up the scrabble tiles and let the alphabet fall as it may and give us someone new to sit with and get to know better. There are 24 of us, now joined by the Confederation General Secretaries and the FIFA General Secretary. The group is quite diverse and needs to learn from each other. The quiet comfort of a dinner table offers that perfect environment. I hope this will change in the future.

That having been said, there was a very nice sense of comradery as we were served a very nice dinner following the cocktails in the FIFA , still in the Bayerischer Hof in Munich. That's right, we haven't left the hotel yet. But, tomorrow, we will have the opportunity to venture out and see some of Munich. At least the hotels where are National delegations are staying.

The dinner was in a lovely private dining room on the second floor with a very talented Harpist playing soothing dinner music. Having rung the bell for cocktails at 1900 hours, and with the honor of having Dr. Joao Havelange, the Honorary FIFA President and his wife Anna Maria for dinner, we recognized his 90th birthday by all singing the traditional Happy Birthday song. By 2200 hours, the President announced that people were free to go, but this is normally when the fun begins. The room cleared out of about half the celebrants. The remainder table hopped and had time to have some of the conversations they had been inhibited from engaging in by the protocol of the evening.

Taking the opportunity to sample some excellent St. Emillion grapes, Michel Platini, FIFA Exco Member and Chuck Blazer, CONCACAF General Secretary and also a FIFA Exco Member, got a chance to talk about the significance of Olympic Football issues coming up for a decision in the Congress in a couple of days. Platini and Blazer would each be the head of FIFA's delegations in neighboring Frankfurt and Cologne respectively.

Issa Hayatou and his wife gave the camera a big smile as he just completed a transatlantic trip to New York where he represented FIFA at the United Nations. Following their heading in for the night, a group of hearty souls found their way back down to the FIFA Lounge and happily encountered the sounds of Franz Lambert, FIFA's perennial musical entertainment.

It didn't take long for the music to take hold and while some started off with a traditional slow dance. While others, got with the beat and decided to let it rip.

Well, for me, it was starting to be the time to pack it in while others stayed and danced. We have a big day tomorrow. The free time gained with be used to prepare for our Extraordinary Congress with our which will be at the Hilton Park at 1500 hours . So, the morning will be spent making sure that everything is picture perfect and that we have time to also meet with some of the Associations before who have requested time. So, goodnight from Munich. Tomorrow is another day.

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