Zuma bestows top award on Blatter

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Johannesburg - A visibly emotional FIFA President Sepp Blatter said he could not express his feelings after South Africa awarded him with the Order of the Companion of OR Tambo.

President Zuma bestowed the Order on Blatter during a gala dinner welcoming FIFA dignitaries in the country on Monday night. The accolade is presented to non-South Africans who have actively promoted the interests and aspirations of South Africa through cooperation and active expression of solidarity.

The 74-year-old Blatter said he accepted the award on behalf of FIFA, himself and his family. "I just have to express my thanks but my emotions are now overcoming my voice," said Blatter in his typical French accent, this time a bit shaky.

Blatter has been instrumental in helping South Africa host its first FIFA World Cup. It was through his efforts that 14 members of the football body's executive committee voted for South Africa in 2004, ultimately giving the country the rights to stage the biggest soccer spectacular in the world.

Blatter was elected as the successor to Dr Joao Havelange as the eighth FIFA President on 8 June 1998. This victory at the 51st FIFA Ordinary Congress in Paris elevated Blatter, who had already served FIFA in various positions for 23 years, onto the highest rung in international football.

He began his professional career as Head of Public Relations of the Valaisan Tourist Board in his native Switzerland and then became General Secretary of the Swiss Ice Hockey Federation in 1964.

He then pursued journalistic and public relations activities in the fields of sport and private industry. As Director of Sports Timing and Public Relations of Longines S.A, he was involved in the organisation of the 1972 and 1976 Olympic Games, acquiring his first taste of the international sports scene.