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Julio Grondona unveils a sculpture by the Swiss artist Beat Bosiger, which FIFA presented to its President on the anniversary of his 25 years of service with the organisation. The statue is carved out of black granite and demonstrates the solidity of the man and his roots. The circle symbolises the perpetual mobility of life and the growing ball represents our game of football.
Photos: Andreas Meier

203 of the 204 member associations in attendance, harmony within the FIFA family, and a positive intermediate report: it was clear at the 52nd Ordinary Congress in Zurich that the "House of FIFA" is on the right track.

ne year after the Extraordinary Congress in Los Angeles, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter's message to the largest-ever assembled membership - only North Korea were absent and Afghanistan were back after a long period of absence - was almost totally one of good news.

The two basic ideas underlying the President's mission - "Make the game better and take it to the world" - are already beginning to have an effect. Improvements have been noted in the co-ordination of the playing calendar, the professionalisation of refereeing, and also in medical research as part of the project F-MARC, not to mention the more basic area of increased comfort in football stadiums. With the successful launch of the Club World Championship another addition has been made to FIFA's list of competitions. And also the first successes of the million-dollar project to support national associations and Goal are becoming apparent, as representatives from Liberia and Nepal were able to report to their colleagues.

Grondona honours Blatter
An extract from a speech given by the longest-serving FIFA Vice-president, Julio Grondona, in honour of President Joseph S. Blatter, who has been with the world football governing body for 25 years.

"During the 25 years he has worked for FIFA, Joseph S. Blatter has shown devotion, commitment and enthusiasm in serving football within the organisation which governs our sport… Anyone who has observed him will be aware of his great conviction, his capacity for work and his tirelessness, which kept him in his office from morning till night or took him around the world in his crusade to help young people; ample reason for us to realise that he was destined to serve FIFA in posts of the highest responsibility, first as General Secretary and then as President.

Since he started with FIFA Joseph Blatter has continued to be the same person, modest and honourable, true to his roots and the basic values that were instilled into him by his family… Yet despite, or perhaps because of his strong links to his village and to the canton of Valais, he has become a true citizen of the world. All of us have had occasion to envy his mastery of several languages, yet what I find more impressive is his total lack of prejudice. The nationality, race, gender, social standing or age of a person are not important to him - none of these blind him to recognising a person's qualities. The human being always takes first place.

Joseph Blatter has said jokingly on numerous occasions that his fiancée was 96 years old, but today we are celebrating a silver wedding, and 25 years of fidelity and devotion. Joseph, I thank you with all my heart for those 25 years of hard work on behalf of FIFA and of football all over the world."

The "House of FIFA" was thus able to show that its foundations provide a strong basis for the ambitions of the world's governing body. The principles of trust, democracy, solidarity, quality and universality have been the focal points of Blatter's programme during the past 12 months, and they will be linked with the dual strategies of making the game better and expanding it world-wide as corner stones of FIFA policy for the next two years.

25 years in the service of FIFA
The waves created by the selection of Germany as the host country for the World Cup 2006 have died down. The South African association decided against taking any further steps, after the FIFA Executive had come out in favour of a rotation principle for the world's biggest football competition, which was ratified by the Congress to great applause.

FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter with the latest group of recipients of the FIFA Order of Merit.
Also unanimously accepted were the proposals to incorporate the new committees into the statutes - Football Committee, National Associations Committee, Strategic Study Committee, and the Marketing and Television Advisory Board. Great pleasure was taken in accepting Bhutan as the 204th member nation of FIFA.

In addition there was more emphasis than ever before on activities not directly linked to what happens on a football pitch. This Congress was less concerned with goals and successes than with the image of football, which was given an academic aspect by the launching of the Master's Programme in the spring.

On the political side, however, the President and the General Secretary, Michel Zen-Ruffinen, had to veer away from their generally very positive reports for a short while to make a few critical comments and to bring the representatives of the national associations up to date on the situation regarding transfers. While the football authorities are finding more and more that heads of state are ready to listen with open ears, there are still some difficult negotiations to be held with the European Union, which by the end of the year should result in a set of conditions that can be applied to everyone on a world-wide basis.

The Congress in the Exhibition Hall in Zurich ended on the same note that it had started on - a festive and harmonious one. In accordance with tradition there were a number of awards of the FIFA Order of Merit to personalities from the football world for their services to the game.

The Congress came to an end with the longest-serving FIFA Vice-President Julio Grondona honouring the President with a speech celebrating Joseph S. Blatter's 25 years of service to FIFA (see box)..

Yet even a quarter of a century of working for the governing body of world football - first as Technical Director, then as Secretary and now as President - have not diminished Blatter's energy and enthusiasm for the sport. On the contrary, he is looking forward eagerly to the second half of his presidential mandate.


FIFA Orders of Merit: from Burrell to Toplak
During the 52nd FIFA Ordinary Congress on 4/5 August 2000 in Zurich, ten new Orders of Merit were awarded to the recipients listed below for their services to football:

Captain Horace Burrell
It was under the presidency of Captain Burrell that Jamaica achieved their much-celebrated qualification for the FIFA World Cup™ in France in 1998. For all the work he has done for the game, Burrell - who is a member of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee - has already received a number of other awards.

Abilio d'Almeida
The 90-year old Brazilian is a friend and advisor of FIFA Honorary President João Havelange, and sat on various FIFA committees for 28 years, being a member of the Executive Committee for 24 of them. D'Almeida was elected an honorary member of FIFA in 1994.

Prince Faisal Bin Fahad Bin Abdul Aziz
The late prince of Saudi Arabia was passionately engaged in developing football in the Gulf region, and received many honours for his services. He was a keen and knowledgeable fan of the game.

Erwin Himmelseher
Himmelseher's work on behalf of the World Cup in Germany in 1974 was a major contributing factor in making such a tournament a financial success for the first time, and paved the way for the future of the major FIFA competitions.

Azrikam Miltchan
Miltchan has been active in the service of the Israeli Football Association for over 40 years, first as vice-president, then as president and then as vice-president again. Since 1968 he has also been a member of the Israeli Olympic Committee.

Nabon Noor
For seventy years Mr Noor of Indonesia has been active on behalf of football at club, national and confederation level. He has also been a member of the FIFA Media Committee for a number of years.

Josep Lluís Núñez
Nunez retired from being president of the Spanish club FC Barcelona this year, having been in charge of the club for nearly 22 years and making "Barca" into one of the world's major football clubs during this period.

Oyo Orok Oyo
From 1958 to1974 president of the Nigerian Football Association, and from 1980 to 1988 a member of the FIFA Executive Committee, Oyo Orok Oyo has been deeply committed to the cause of advancing African football.

Nikita Simonian
In the 40s and 50s a well-known player (winner of a number of titles in the Soviet Union, plus an Olympic gold medal in 1956), Nikita Simonian was later also successful as a coach and as an official, becoming president of the Russian Football Association in 1992.

Ivan Toplak
Following a great career as a player (20 A international caps for Yugoslavia) and as a coach (in charge of Yugoslavia for the FIFA World Cup in 1982), Ivan Toplak also acted as a FIFA instructor worldwide for 15 years and lectured in universities on the subject of football.

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