Saturday, June 10, 2006

By the dawn's early light...

The call from the desk came at 0400 hours. Blearly eyed and tired, we awoke to do the few remaining tasks at hand prior to taking our leave of Munich and beginning our journey to Cologne.

With 14 pieces of luggage, cameras and computers shipped ahead by van, we packed our one remaining suitcase and wrapped up the laptops prior to being wisked off to the airport and our departure from Munich on Lufthansa.

At 0600 hours, we were already at the airport and greeted by VIP services, who make traveling a joy rather than the horrible task it has become. They greet you with a smile and then direct you to a special door where the security check is almost pleasant. Yes, the two laptops had to go through the xray machine separately, but in all other respects it resembled a very civilized and courteous process making it all the more tolerable.

We still had an hour to departure, so we walked the few meters to the VIP lounge, which offered a combination of real bread pretzels, freshly brewed coffees and cheeses wrapped as little soccer balls. The big flat screen TV's were showing footage of the fans in the streets of Munich getting ready for the kick off of the Opening Match which was only 12 hours away.

Boarding time was approaching and shortly after returning with the boarding passes and luggage claim check, the agent took us to a waiting Mercedes which drove under the extended airbridge fingers and finally stopped beneath the nose of our jet bound for Cologne. We walked up the metal stairs and quietly made our way to our seats and tucked the laptops under chair in front of us.

It seemed like only a moment and we were coming in for a landing in Cologne. Mary Lynn had for the first time in a week gotten ahold of the Financial Times, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal and found a world of perspectives somehow lost while we sojourned in Munich for a week. She read to me the highlights of the perceptions of our deliberations and meetings but more importantly took note of the crescendo of commentary on the events ahead, the real football and the battles to be won and lost, putting into focus the real meaning of our tasks and responsibilities.

Immediately upon arrival in Cologne, we were met with a placarded escort who welcomed and then ushered us to our car where we met Holger, an intelligent good looking young man whose English was quite good and would be our driver during our time in this assignment.

Once at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, we were advised that the morning briefing meeting was already in session and that if I could deposit my belongings in my room quickly, Hugo Salcedo, the Venue Coordinator, would like to introduce me to the FIFA staff on site. Dropping off the few of my personal things, I rushed down to the first floor offices and joined the meeting in progress. Pictured here are Hugo together with two of the ten people who were introduced to me each with their respective disciplines and responsibilities. I am a lucky man. I have a great team to work with.

By the time I got back to the room, my friend of more than a quarter century, George Tarantini, arrived at the hotel. He had just landed originating in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he coaches the soccer team at North Carolina State University. In reality George does much more than coach soccer. He is truly a key element of the University process. I know George is an important part of the development of the men in his charge both as better students and better people. I am proud of George and it was a great pleasure for me to have him join us here in Cologne expose him to some of the flavor of this World Cup first hand.

Following a brief nap, interrupted by the stacatto of calls by people whose tickets for games in nearby venues I had brought with me from Munich, we got ready to head over to the Volunteers' Lounge, located just outsider of the gates to the stadium. They invited us to join them watching the opening game where they would as a group enjoy the first rush of this World Cup. I was very happy to be invited by them to share in the common experience and was advised by my colleague Hugo, that in appreciation we were providing the beer and pizza.

The pleasure of offering a few words to the volunteers was mine as I had the opportunity of encouraging them to enjoy and cherish the great experience they were about to have. These kids are true champions of events such as the World Cup, the Olympics and every major endeavor that breathes life through the dedication of volunteers. I couldn't have thought of a better way to begin the World Cup than by thanking this representative group of young people who will do so much to make the event a great success.

Although we were hundreds of miles west of Munich, this great group of young people came to their feet at the playing of the national anthems and the anticipation of the referees opening whistle rapidly turned to the real thing as the game began.

The kids were ready for this. Not only were they among their friends, but helpful hands painted war paint on their smiling cheeks in anticipation of a big day for the home team.

They were soon rewarded as Germany tallied the first strike and went onto the scoreboard. Germany's first goal was a great opener. Football historians, looking back at this World Cup will remember the opening goal as one of the prettiest hits one could hope to see. While surpressing the quiet hope that one of my regional teams would succeed I knew that Germany's Philipp Lahm had gained my respect and fans around the world.

We sat back and watched two more goal tip the seesaw before 17 minutes were concluded and then sat back to watch the confrontation continue. Happily, I was just one of a group of kids again watching match that meant a lot to all of those around me.

With a final expression of joy, the Volunteers exclaimed their pleasure with the opening match just one more time as they could sense that this was about to become the experience of their life. I wish them well in the knowledge that this is a very special opportunity and they will make the most of it.

The day was far from over, but like many of you, I returned to the hotel and watched the match of Poland vs Ecuador from the bar in our hotel. Ecuador showed us plenty and after the 2-0 win, we made it back to our suite to check emails and to see the sun set behind the magnificent cathedral of Cologne.

Cologne is a wonderful city with a great stadium. Tomorrow we will meet with the delegations of Portugal and Angola for our first pre-game meeting in this venue. There are many more great games coming. I hope you have fun too.

Friday, June 09, 2006

A Tribute to Charlie Dempsey on Opening Day...

On the opening day of the World Cup, the Germans should dedicate the games to Charlie Dempsey of New Zealand. More than any other man, Charlie assured the hosts that this day would finally come.

Interestingly enough, Charlie didn't do it by casting his vote for Germany six years ago; rather he succeeded by not voting at all. Following his support of the English bid, Charlie couldn't bring himself to vote outside of Europe. Even though the Oceania Confederation, in its Congress just months before the vote in Zurich, had directed their delegate to the FIFA Executive Committee to vote for South Africa following his support for England, he just couldn't do it.

For Charlie that would be like breaking marriage vows. After all, Europe did support Oceania becoming a Confederation and Charlie wasn't one who forgot his friends. Charlie told his associates that he had been getting calls through the night from Nelson Mandela and Gerhard Schröder and he was a nervous wreck. For him, the only answer was not voting for anyone after England's elimination.

The net effect of this was to break the impending tie which would have given Sepp Blatter the casting vote; likely to have been polled in favor of South Africa. The casting vote was not required since Charlie's withdrawal from the process left Germany with a clear majority.

So, Charlie, on this day of great celebration in Germany; a day in which everyone can be proud... take a bow and let everyone shake your hand for a job well done. We wouldn't be here today without you.

From where I sit...

A view from where I sit during the FIFA Congress in Munich.
On the left is Lennart Johannson, Sweden; next to him is M.J. Chung, Korea; and Angel Maria Villar Llona of Spain, all FIFA Vice Presidents; the President Joseph Blatter is just to the right of Villar's head.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

“A time to make friends”...

The Local Organizing Committee in Germany came up with the slogan, "A time to make friends..." to demonstrate that Germany is a warm and friendly place where people indeed can and will make friends. I want to bring your attention to a man who actually personifies this concept.

Norbert Wolf is Senior Vice President of Siemens AG. They are headquartered here in Munich. Norbert's responsibility is for the corporate security of the giant multinational corporation. You might think that Norbert, sporting a pretty impressive title like that, might be a stick in the mud or someone without a sense of humor. Well, a quick look a the sequence of pictures to the left will tell you something about his personality.

While he is a serious businessman, he is charming, he is funny, he is entertaining, he enjoys his life and relates to his friends. He is the type of person I hope each you get to meet if you are going to visit Germany during this World Cup... and if you don't, then just take it from me that there really are the kind of people here in Germany that Franz Beckenbauer has been talking about in their promotions of this World Cup.

Norbert made us play hooky tonight. We had been invited by the Organizing Committee to a wonderful concert a the Munich Olymiastadium. However, it was going to be the only night we would be able to see Norbert before taking up my role as Head of FIFA Delegation in Cologne. While we are hoping to see him again when we come back for the semi-final, we really wanted to make sure it would happen before our departure.

He wanted Mary Lynn and me to get a look at the mountains; or at least a village south of the city. Munich is a great place, and Norbert hit the right chord by finding a lovely country inn overlooking the village Starnberg located at the side of a lake of the same name. The food was great. Bavarian, full of taste and calories. Really delicious. It should tell you something when appetizers we ordered are called "forespeis", which literally translates as foreplay.

Even the groans of satisfaction following the four dishes including Nürnberger Sausages and sauerkraut; a noodle dish I can describe as a cross between Fettucine Alfredo and Kraft macaroni & cheese; also a regional dish of the most delicious and enormous "ravioli" type pocket pasta; and finally some local fish served with potatoe pancakes (not that I wasn't paying attention), didn't stop Norbert from returning to the menu to order main courses. I wasn't sure where it would fit... but as you can see, with the consultation of our waitress Norbert found a few more dishes to let us know that you can't eat Bavarian food every day.... well, at least I can't. But, it was great.

Mary Lynn was too polite to refuse, so Norbert ordered her a delicious freshly cooked fish with almonds liberally sprinkled on top which came served with 3 large boiled potatoes garnished with cut chives and a side of steamed vegetables. Naturally, Mary Lynn who can still wear dresses that would fit a teenager, eats healthy food. Norbert following my protests said he would only order some little "sides", Brotzeit. I should have been suspicious of the sparkle of glee in Norbert's eyes as a platter of cold cuts, cheeses and spreads landed on the table accompanied by slices dark german bread.

Finally, Norbert announces, "No German meal is complete without the desserts!!!" Mary Lynn raises her arm in protest, but to no avail as Norbert orders her a Bavarian Cream. Blazer knows that Norbert is right, so quickly says, "I will have the plum strudle with vanilla sauce." I know Norbert ordered something for himself, but once my dessert came I was into some state of sugar shock and have no memory of what he ordered. The coffee, I thought would keep me awake on the way back to Munich, but alas, gluttony and satisfaction overtook my body as I slipped into a blissful rest until we pulled up at the Bayerischer Hof.
Thanks Norbert. It was a great night and the LOC now knows from this Blog that they have the perfect ambassador in you. Thanks for a great night.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Munich und Beer...

While I admit to beer not being my favorite beverage, being in the Hofbrauhaus in Munich and not having a big stein of beer... well, just didn't seem right. So, here together with Jason
Hughes, my Deputy General Secrtary, we down a couple of big ones and maintain our image as good visitors to this lovely city.
The Hofbrauhaus, built in 1896, many cold pints have found their way down the throats of thirsty customers. 2,600 gallons of beer a day are pumped into the restaurant that seats 1,700 happy customers.

We did our part, and I was in good company with Guillermo Canedo, the member of the CONCACAF Executive Committee from Mexico, Sunil Gulati, President of the United States Soccer Federation together with his General Secretary Dan Flynn and his deputy Jay Berhalter.

If you haven't met Mary Lynn yet, she came back into my life almost 4 years ago and has radically changed my life. While she does encourage me to have the occasional beer, she is responsible for me stopping smoking the day she moved in after 45 years of my puffing away. She has gotten pretty good with her Sony Camera, so much of what you will see here can be attributed to her... it is also the reason she isn't in that many pictures.

Well, don't get the wrong impression from these pictures. I rarely if ever have a beer. Doesn't mean I am a stick in the mud, just that I never gained a taste for it. Clearly, the same can't be said for food.

We left the quiet reserve of the FIFA Lounge to venture out and catch a taste of Munich. Actually, it was fun. We had to squeeze in with some others at a big table first, and then as time went on, we managed to get a place or two more as our driver, Mr. Florin Wald joined us (no beer for him, the designated drive) and Canedo's two sons gradually fit in as we expanded our territory and made friends with those around us.

Munich, beer, beer gardens, beer halls, beer house. There is something about drinking beer in Munich that makes it magical even for a non-beer drinker like me. Oh, the sausages were pretty good too... and soft pretzels... even a spiral cut white radish that you put a dash of salt on... hmmmmm... salty pretzels, salty radishes, salty sausages... I guess these people know how to sell beer, and boy is it good!!!

Our next adventure is into a small village outside of Munich overlooking a lovely lake. I will see you tomorrow.

Good night from Munich.

More about our Friends and the CONCACAF Congress

Following President's Blatter's address, Warner called a 15 minute break in the meeting allowing the guests to greet the members individually and for the staff to reset the dais following the departure of Messrs. Blatter and Linsi.

Upon returning, Warner got directly into the Agenda of the day and called for the approval of the minutes of the XXIV Congress which was held in Grenada on May 2, 2004. There being no corrections or comments, the motion was approved.

Next, the 21 page Executive Committee Report was reviewed. The document chronicled the last two years of activities of the Confederation. The President took great pride in letting the members know that the materials comprising the meeting book and the Executive Committee report specifically, resplendent with pictures and text covering the accomplishments of the recent past were all produced in-house which was a result of our modernization of technical infrastructure at the CONCACAF New York offices. With applause, the Report was accepted.

The President then turned the meeting over to me, where I presented the Audited Financial Statements for the 2 years ended December 31, 2005 to the Congress. The document included the Auditor's Report; Financial Statements - Balance Sheet at 31/12/05, Statement of Income and Expenditure for the 2 years ending 31/12/05, Cash Flow Statement covering the same 2 year period, Notes to the Financial Statments and finally a detailed categorical Schedule of Expenses for the 2 year period.

Following the submission of the Audit, the Congress reviewed the Budget. All the financial documents had been distributed to the membership one month prior to the meeting. The positive results and the plans for the two years 2006 and 2007 met with the Congress' unanimous approval. Blazer advised the members that while the financial cycle of the Confederation continues to be a two year period, beginning with the Congress of 2007 the Confederation would submit an annual Certified Audit in step with the new Congress calendar. The budgets would continue to be prepared on a two year basis since the income is linked to the Gold Cup while the expenditures are scattered over a two year grid. The news was well received. The positive financial results demonstrated stability while clearly demonstrating that the major investment being made was in competitions. That concluded the financial portion of the Congress.

The next item on the Agenda was a housekeeping issue. The amendments of the Statutes of CONCACAF. Blazer explained to the members that the revisions were limited to the items mandated by FIFA and those other cleanup which brought the Statutes into conformity with the real world. John Collins, CONCACAF Legal Counsel and Member of FIFA's Legal Affairs Committee, took the members through the document change by change and explained each of the items and the reason for the revision. John did an excellent job and accepted one additional clarification on the wording of one of our voting provisions offered by St. Vincent and the Grenadines resulting in updated Statutes now totally in conformity with FIFA's requirements.

Mary Harvey, FIFA's Director of Development, then took the podium to provide a summary of the work FIFA has been doing in our region. She proudly presented that with the exception of only one member, all have submitted their documentation for the audit requirements of FAP (FIFA's Financial Assistance Program) and the vast majority of those have already been confirmed by the auditors of being in conformity. This demonstrated the commitment by Warner to establish CONCACAF's members as the standard of transparency and compliance in responsibly handling the funds granted to it by FIFA.

Mary's department is not only responsible for the FAP program, but also for the very success GOAL program aimed at building physical infrastructure in Members Associations. Its most effective application is where the $400,000 grants are used as seed money to attract investment by private enterprise and governmental grants of land or facilities. Since 1999, 44 Goal projects have been awarded within the CONCACAF territory and have made a significant impact on the facilities of the members and the overall house of FIFA. Jack expressed our gratitude for Mary's support of our region.

The remaining business item of the day was to walk members through the Agenda of the FIFA Congress and to discuss any common positions that the Confederation was inclined to take. Point by point, I went through the Congress agenda and then went into detail on the amendments to the FIFA Statutes. The one real issue for us had been corrected in the FIFA Executive Committee the day before where a proposal made by the Swiss Football Federation at the request of FIFA President Blatter had been revised so as to assure us that deliberate care would be taken and the proper analysis made by the relevant FIFA committees in establishing a new judicial body to deal with gambling, corruption and other ethical transgressions.

We also discussed the proposal to withdraw the overage (over 23 years old) players from the Olympic Finals. This position was well supported by the Congress and is the position of the Confederation going into the FIFA Congress where a decision will be taken regarding the 2008 Beijing Olmypics.

Jack recognized Alan Rothenberg, who will also receive the FIFA Order of Merit for his contribution to football for organizing the 1994 FIFA World Cup USA. Warner concluded the meeting by telling members not to bother send him frivilous emails about news stories and tell all yellow journalists, but rather to email him with their accomplishments in building new fields, in organizing new leagues, in teaching their members more about the organization of the game and by demonstrating what a good job they are doing in their own associations.

It was a great Congress and a really lovely afternoon spent in the company of friends.

A Day Full of Friends...

The day was going to start early with staff coming to my suite to review final preparations for the CONCACAF Extraordinary Congress scheduled for 1500 hours at the Hilton Park Hotel in Munich.

Deputy General Secretary Jason Hughes was the first to arrive at 1000 hours. Having made some late changes in the Congress program, the Powerpoint for the projection screens needed to be updated and then a final review and scripting to make sure everyone had their assignment so the meeting would go smoothly.

The population in the small junior suite stretched the walls as another Deputy General Secretary, Rafael Tinoco, tucked his head out the window to use his cell phone and leave CONCACAF Executive Committee Member Guillermo Canedo White on his laptop with Jason to his back and me at the desk. Minutes later we would be joined by Sunil Gulati, newly elected President of the United States Soccer Federation and Jack Austin Warner, the President of CONCACAF and Vice President of FIFA.

When Jack arrived, we reviewed the schedule and adjusted the timings to his likings. Jack is famous for running professional meetings which are well organized and documented. Although much of it is prepared well in advance, the pre-meeting lets the President personalize the program on the day of the game. Gulati gave him a preview of the remarks he wanted to make at the Congress, being a new Association President, he had substantial offerings of technical and developmental assistance in hand that we knew the members would be happy to hear about and from our part represented a major shift towards internationalism of a previously insular body.

The rest of the details were agreed and Jason finalized the Powerpoint that would be seen just a couple of hours away in the Hilton. Ted Howard, another Deputy, was at the Hilton where he and Competitions and Events Director Jill Fracisco were finalizing the seating and technical setup of the meeting hall. At 1430, we boarded the Hyundai Van provided me during my stay at the World Cup and a local Munich driver, Mr. Wald eased the vehicle from the Bayerbischer Hof through the streets of Munich for the 10 minute ride to the Hilton.

Following the roll call and establishment of a quorum with 39 present and only Panama stuck in air traffic and unable to make the meeting, Sunil addressed the delegations and they were very pleasantly surprised to hear the new approach to international relations offered by the USA. Warner then asked Mary Harvey, the FIFA Director of Development to come up to the podium, where he presented her with a boquet of flower and then a special birthday cake all with the love and appreciation of the members where with her patience and good management skills, our Confederation now boast an almost perfect record in completing its audit requirements to FIFA
Jack then introdced Dr. Urs Linsi, FIFA General Secretary and then it was the turn of the FIFA President, Joseph "Sepp" Blatter to take the floor to speak. Sepp skillfully complemented the team of Warner, Sasso and Blazer, who have been collectively serving on the FIFA Executive Committee for 50 years. He noted that between Warner and Blazer they chair a total of 5 FIFA Competitions, including all four youth events and the FIFA Confederations Cup. Unquestionably, CONCACAF has provided an unbroken string of support for the FIFA President, and it appeared clear that he was making it known that he would seek a third term next year.

Warner took the opportunity to introduced Oscar Thamar Torres, who served as the Deputy General Secretary and marked over 32 years of continuous employment by CONCACAF. Oscar who was previously inducted into the CONCACAF Hall of Fame 6 years ago in Paradise Island, Bahamas, would in two days be honored with the FIFA Order of Merit. On the left Oscar appears over my shoulder. He has been a great friend and my colleague since 1990 when we took over the administrative role in CONCACAF. Oscar was accompanied to Munich by his wife, Magaly and his son Oscar. It is hard to think of anyone else who has personified the rich history of the Confederation and it is a great personal pleasure to see Oscar recognized for his many years contributing his skills and energy to the sport.

[I will finish this up in the morning with more on the CONCACAF Congress and a night of fun at the Hofbrauhaus... lift your glasses high]

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.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Lunchtime with the Exco...

The army of FIFA works best on a full stomach. The Executive Committee, likewise, paused during its busy day to join their spouces and significant others for a quick buffet lunch in the FIFA Lounge at the Bayerishcer Hof in Munich.

The break is actually a good thing to get time to discuss some of the issues raised in them morning while dealing with the matter to be discussed in the afternoon.

Pictured above are Isaac Sasso and his grand-niece, and in the table behind him the President and a delegation including two FIFA Vice Presidents, Julio Grondona of Argentina and Angel Maria Villar Llona of Spain.

Pictured together at one of the round lunch tables on the left is Ricardo Teixeira, President of the CBF and Dr. Nicolas Leoz, President of CONMEBOL, both of whom are Members of the FIFA Executive Committee.

Following the break, the Executive Committee returned to the meeting room where it stood for its group photo.

FIFA Executives meet in Munich...

FIFA always kicks off on time. At 1000 hours at the Bayerricher Hof, Munich, the FIFA Executive Committee met, just days in advance of the opening of the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany, as FIFA President Joseph "Sepp" Blatter called the meeting to order of the 24 men who control the worldwide sports organization responsible for the sport of football/soccer.

The President offered the incentive to the Committee of completing the work on the Agenda in a single day. With that motivatioin, the Committee attacked its day's work with energy and dedication in order to have time to spend on Monday with their respective delegations arriving in Munich for the FIFA Congress.

The Agenda for the meeting is normally broken up into sections. The first section is comprised of reports while later there are items which require action or decisions by the Executive Committee. Today was no different. The program began with opening remarks of President Blatter. This was followed by the Roll Call with everyone present, including former great player Michel Platini, pictured above. The minutes of 18 meetings of Committees held since February were approved and the Agenda, likewise, was accepted.

The President reported on his activites since the last meeting and brought to the attention of the Exco a meeting of the Emergency Committee dealing with the composition of the World Club Championship. Reports by the Confederations were next and then Angel Maria Villar Llonar, FIFA VP and Chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee reported on the status of the Referees for the World Cup.

Chuck Blazer, Chairman of the FIFA U-20 Women's World Championship Russia 2006 (17 August - 3 September) reported on preparations for the event while Jim Brown, Director of Competitions reported on the Draw held in Moscow in April.

Ah, I guess this would be a good time to tell you that these are not minutes of the meetings nor do I plan to give you the content of the presentations, since that is for the official spokesmen of FIFA to do in news conferences and through the official FIFA website. All I hope to chronicle for you during these coming weeks are the sensations and experiences of this World Cup month. I hope you enjoy reading about them.

Brazilian Confederation President Ricardo Teixeira, Chairman of FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Rio de Janeiro 2006 (2-11 November) gave the update on preparations for that event and a listing of teams already qualified and the remaining Confederaton qualifying tournaments scheduled for this summer.

FIFA Vice President Lennart Johannson reported on the prior day's meeting of the Organizing Committee for the FIFA World Cup Germany and made everyone aware of the progress and status of the great endeavor.

The General Secretary, Urs Linsi, reported on the developments in organizing the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. The introduction of the Logo and the official launch will take place while we are here in Germany.

Dr. Vlacheslav Koloskov, Chairman of the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2006 (10-17 December) reported on the teams qualified and the calendar to determine the remainder. Also, a decision was taken regarding the composition of the teams.

President Blatter then reported on the Task Force for the Good of the Game, a group he launched at last year's Congress to deal with the serious issues of today's football. A full report will be made to the Congress.

The General Secretary reported on the meeting of the Strategic Studies Working Group, held two days earlier in Munich, with the Secreataries of the Confederations and the GS of FIFA. He focused on a report made by UEFA's CEO Lars-Christer Olsson on referee development.

The Exco was given the dates of the International Match Calendar for 2007 & 2008, showing the dates fixed for each Confederation's National Team Championship. A discussion also took place about the venues for the 2009 U17 and U20 World Cups.

The President gave an extensive report on the "Win in Africa - with Africa" concept and how they are making progress towards achieving its objectives.

Dates for all Confederation congresses were submitted for 2007.

The Executive Committee received the report of the Internal Audit Committee and were ready for the Congress.

Jerome Valcke, Director of the FIFA Marketing & TV AG reported on the meeting of the Board of Directors which took place on Thursday in Munich. He submitted the recommendations made by the Board which had also been approved by FIFA's Finance Committee.

Senior Vice President Julio Grondona and Chairman of FIFA's Finance Committee reported together with Markus Kattner, reported on the state of the finances fo FIFA.

Dr. Koloskov once more took the floor, this time in his capacity of Chairman of the National Associations Committee. There he reported on seven members that had particular problems.

Vice President David Will, and Chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee, was responsible for the presentation of the Legal Matters. The report was comprehensive and coverage current litigation and pending matters. He then addressed the proposals to the Congress and reviewed with the membership the items which would be presented to the Congress for decision.

Also on the Congress (7 and 8 or June), responsibilities were assigned to members for special tasks and presentations and other technical issues were covered along with listing those to receive the FIFA Order of Merit during the Congress.

An update was given regarding the new home of FIFA and the successful move of personnel into the new facilities. The Executive Committee will meet there for the first time on 15 September, while the members of the Congress will get to experience it first hand at the 2007 FIFA Congress at the end of May.

Each member was given the opportunity to raise any other issue on their mind and follwing that the meeting was adjourned and the group picture was taken.

Time to get ready for the Executive Committee Dinner at 1900 hours.

See you later.

The meetings begin...

FIFA started the week off with meetings of key committees including Marketing & TV, Internal Audit, Referees, Strategic Planning and today, the FIFA World Cup Organizing Committee. This Organizing Committee is chaired by Lennart Johansson. It is comprised of a mix of members from FIFA's Executive Committee, other experienced members of National Associations and Confederations along with key officials of the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan, Mr. Beckenbauer and officials of the Local Organizing Committee for Germany and looking to the future, two leaders of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. Joined by senior members of the FIFA staff, it is a large, but diverse, cross section of FIFA officials who will serve in various capacities throughout the World Cup.

The meeting, held at the Hotel Bayerischer Hof, Munich, ran for two hours, beginning with a welcome address by FIFA's President Joseph S. Blatter. A detailed Agenda, covering all aspects of the Final Competition included discussions on FIFA's organization in the final competition; the general program; refereeing; official lists of players; media; marketing & TV; ticketing; security; medical matters and doping control; the technical study group; disciplinary matters and finance.

The LOC reported on its activities leading up to the final preparations of the Cup following six years of preparation. Overall, there was great satisfaction with the work of the committee and the preparation for the game. Referee assignments and administrative responsibilities were assigned and confirmed during the session and everyone eagerly awaited the open in Munich on June 9th.

Tomorrow, Sunday, begins the two day session of the FIFA Executive Committee. I will be back with an update following that meeting.

[Picture: Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder, Pres. DFB & Member FIFA Exco; Slim Chiboub, Tunisia, Member FIFA Exco]