president Sepp Blatter inevitably took the headlines on the first day of world soccer’s biggest industry event   – despite not being in the building – but there was plenty more to discuss at Manchester Central. It was revealed that on-field video referrals may be trialled as soon as next year’s U20 World Cup in New Zealand. Blatter described this year’s World Cup as the best he had seen, both in terms of atmosphere and quality of play, and said that while he had been concerned about civil unrest in Brazil, his experience had taught him to expect that infrastructural work would be completed in time. He believes the World Cup should go back to Africa, or to North America, in 2026. I’ve developed many diverse relationships! The 2022 World Cup in Qatar will take place in winter, he affirmed – with meetings in Zurich this week set to seek an appropriate slot in the calendar. “Let us wait and see the geopolitical situation and shall not interfere with politics,” said Blatter of the thorny question of the Russian World Cup in 2018. “A boycott in sport has never had any benefit,” he argued. Politics and sport may not mix but football “can help to find a solution to the benefit of football”, Blatter added, citing development work in Cyprus and negotiations in Israel and Palestine as evidence of soccer’s task to “work for a better world”. Development projects have changed the game on the field as well, with Costa Rica’s performance on the field in Brazil coming after years of investment and grassroots effort. Blatter called for fair play from the world’s press, and applauded it from the world’s footballers in Brazil this summer. He also hopes to see it in “families, at school level, in the business and, why not, in the politics”. “And this, then,” he revealed, “would be the end of my mission. ”

The launch of the is expected to bring glitz and glamour to soccer in the continent but growing the game there will take plenty of work, with efforts to professionalise the existing just as significant in the long term. All India Football Federation general secretary Kushal Das told the convention that partners were disregarding realistic prospects of profit for the next five years but counting on the huge potential of the sport after that. Meanwhile, 60 players are currently being scouted to form the core of India’s team for the U17 World Cup in India in 2017, with links sought with clubs across the world, including Brazil’s Atletico Paranaense, to give them experience of different kinds of soccer. Juxtaposed with a series of talks on the rampant transfer market, HRH Prince Ali of Jordan spoke of the aims of his Asian Football Development Project, which has worked on projects across the continent and with Syrian refugees in his own country. The prince was asked whether his duties as president of the Jordan FA were a release from other priorities but turned the question on its head, saying that football could aid social development. Currently a vice president, he also said the sport needed to “reverse the pyramid” on governance, calling for term limits and putting players, fans and coaches first. “If we’re going in the right direction,” he said, “we won’t know who the officials are. ”


Former athlete Michael Johnson during the Soccerex Global Convention.

was so quick as a youngster that his spatial awareness could not keep up with his feet, his father giving him a helmet as the infant Olympian sped headlong into stray objects. But the American, a keynote speaker at , warns that young athletes are at risk of getting too much, too young through social media. “If I wanted attention from the media, I had to run faster,” he said. “If I wanted endorsements, I had to run faster. ”

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