National News

Hammam hails 'African faith'

2010-07-10 12:46

Johannesburg - Asian football leader Mohamed bin Hammam praised FIFA president Sepp Blatter on Friday for putting his faith in South Africa to stage the World Cup.

Bin Hammam told The Associated Press in an interview that South Africa has exceeded all expectations as a World Cup host after widespread concerns over security, public safety and stadiums being ready on time.

"I have to put on the record that Blatter's bet on South Africa has paid off," the Asian Football Confederation president said. "Much of the credit has to go to his personal efforts and determination."

The praise suggests warmer relations between the longtime colleagues on FIFA's ruling executive after they had been heading for a power struggle earlier this year.

Blatter 'put his neck out'

Bin Hammam seemed to be preparing a challenge to Blatter's leadership at the FIFA presidential election due in 2011, then lost a key executive committee vote in March. The two men made peace several weeks later.

Two days before the World Cup final, Bin Hammam backed Blatter's judgment in bringing the tournament to Africa for the first time. The 24-member executive chaired by Blatter selected South Africa in 2004 ahead of bids by Morocco and Egypt.

"I think he has put his neck out for this decision," Bin Hammam said. "We didn't expect to see a World Cup so successfully conducted, (that) the teams are going to be comfortable, fans are going to be enjoying it.

"But at the end of the day what we saw was that everything was perfectly done - more than what we expected."

Bin Hammam said security threats in South Africa had been "one great issue that concerned everybody.

"The second concern was, of course, also that the infrastructure was not picking up so rapidly," he said. "A World Cup cannot be played without stadiums and cannot be played also without safety and security."

The Qatari official said the tournament was likely finishing without major incident - showing the world South Africa is a safe place.

"Its problems will be the same problems in New York, or London, or anywhere else," Bin Hammam said.

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