As the FIFA inspection committee's one-week tour of Egypt came to an end, delegation head Jan Peeters reiterated his satisfaction with Africa as the 2010 host continent of choice. Inas Mazhar reports
Around the world, in the homes of millions, the past three months have undoubtedly been profound in some way, shape or form. For the millions of millions that make up the football fan contingency of the world, the significance of these past 90 days will determine, in essence, the next six years.
"For the past three months, the inspection committee has visited the five candidate nations," Peeters told the press an hour before the delegation's departure from Cairo to Zurich. "And from what we've seen in the continent regarding the infrastructure or the popularity of the game, we have been eye witnesses to African developments and I believe that FIFA was right when it decided that it was time for the World Cup fiesta to be held in Africa."
What, however, does this mean with regards to Egypt's chances of bringing the 2010 World Cup to the home of the root of civilisation remains to be seen.
"We have no right to do so [make comments or hints as to the findings of the inspection] because simply we are the technical team not the decision makers. However, we are sure that their decision would be in favour of football in general and Africa in particular," Peeters said.
The Egypt visit marked the fifth and last visit to African candidate nations bidding for the 2010 cup, following South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya -- who are applying to co-host the cup.
With the five inspection visits behind them, and each country's pros and cons noted, the future -- even to the FIFA delegates -- as yet remains unclear.
"It's too dangerous now to say 'Yes' I've taken my decision," Peeters explained, adding that it is not the delegation that makes the decision, but the executive committee. He said stressing on the same point that it wasn't the committee who would vote but the executive committee.
What he did make clear, however, was that the Egypt visit was far too short -- not allowing the five-man team to fully explore and enjoy the richness of the country.
The hectic eight-day 23 to 30 January visit -- which included touring the nine host cities -- left Peeters joking that the men were "lucky to still be alive!"
"Our programme ran out perfectly," he told the press. "We visited all facilities planned in the programme and whatever we have asked to see we were also given the chance to do so."
Perhaps in most countries the departing speech would include statements stemming from the duty of protocol, but in the case of Egypt, it was clear Peeters's words were sincere.
"The Egyptian people really impressed me," he said. "It wasn't only the public awareness we felt, but the government's support as well. We have met President Hosni Mubarak who confirmed to us Egypt's capability of hosting the world's most elite sports event," he offered. "But what really impressed me more, was when we met an Egyptian teenager in the street, he stopped us and proudly told us 'in each person of Egypt you have the smell of culture'."
"It was a very tiring and hectic journey in which we broke some world and Olympic records" Peeters laughed. "In a country like Egypt, we spent only 17 minutes at the great pyramids, 30 minutes at the fabulous and famous Alexandria Bibliotheque and only seven minutes at the tomb of the famous ancient Egyptian King Tutankh Amoun!
Peeters said that the inspection committee will submit its final report about the five nations to FIFA President Joseph Blatter on 30 March. It is not until 14 May, however, that the five nations will make their final presentations in Zurich before the 24-man executive committee. The decision and host nation will be declared the following day.