A FIFA delegation ended a five-day visit to Cairo during which it inspected the under-20 facilities for the 2009 World Cup. Inas Mazhar
joined the tour
The nine-man FIFA delegation checked Egypt's readiness to host the U-20 FIFA World Cup which starts in Egypt on 10 July 2009 for three weeks. Egypt was named the host of the event last year after no other country bid. FIFA said it had wanted the event to take place in Africa.
"Four years ago, FIFA decided after awarding the 2010 World Cup to South Africa that all FIFA World Cup events should take place in Africa in 2009 and 2010 under the slogan, "Win Africa in Africa", said Jack Warner, FIFA vice president and head of the FIFA inspection delegation.
In 2009, there will be three major events before the biggest of them takes place the following year in South Africa. The first event in 2009 will be the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Nigeria, then the U-20 FIFA World Cup in Egypt and the Confederations Cup in South Africa.
The delegation comprised Warner, who is also chairman of the FIFA U-20 committee, president of CONCACAF and a member of the FIFA executive board; Jay Neuhaus, head of FIFA's marketing department; Marion Mayer-Vorfelder, FIFA's U-20 event manager; Adnan Al-Guindi, FIFA senior manager of competitions services; Sandra Dorizzi, coordinator FIFA senior events; Emmanuel Maradas, FIFA communications; Pedro Coley, FIFA accommodation office; and two assistants.
The inspection visit included tours in Alexandria, Cairo, Ismailia and Port Said. The team went to sports facilities, hotels, accommodation centres and hospitals. The FIFA delegates took detailed notes while checking the facilities. Warner spoke for them at a press conference.
"We had a busy schedule in four days and we couldn't see everything as planned. However, we managed to see at least 80 per cent of what was included in the programme. We still need to visit Suez." The delegation never got to see Suez.
"During the visit we were impressed by Egypt's standard of hotels. They are really first class and we have no comments on that. Actually it makes it difficult for us to select the hotels required. In terms of communications, transportation, history, entertainment places and security, Egypt has all that.
"As for the stadiums, we have seen eight stadiums in the four cities, however, I can tell you that we were impressed with only three. In order: Borg Al-Arab of Alexandria, the Military Production Stadium and Cairo Stadium in Cairo.
"We were not satisfied with any of the other stadiums -- Haras Al-Hedoud, Alexandria, the Arab Contractors, Ismailia and Port Said. There is much to be done in these stadiums in order to reach the FIFA standards for hosting the FIFA U-20 World Cup."
Borg Al-Arab Stadium, built especially for the 2010 World Cup when Egypt hoped to host it, can seat up to 80,000 spectators. "It is a fantastic stadium. It is one of the best in the world," said Warner as he was checking its facilities. "It only needs to increase the number of seats allocated to the media, that's all." Other FIFA members said the stadium, which has not officially been opened, is a copy and paste of the Stade de France, which hosted the 1998 World Cup. The same architect of Stade de France joined the delegation on the tour and was proud to see his baby fully grown.
"We were also impressed by the Military Production Stadium at Al-Salam City in Cairo," Warner added. "It is great. It has artificial turf and is really constructed according to FIFA regulations, even better than we expected. And though it hasn't been finished yet, we know it is going to be a great and fabulous stadium. We were lucky to see it this time and they only need to increase the seats in both the VIP box and the media tribune. Then it will be fully ready.
"Cairo Stadium comes third. It is a great stadium but needs some amendments concerning the media and the emergency exits for spectators."
Warner said the Egyptian Local Organising Committee (LOC) was given two months to start working on the changes asked by FIFA. "They have two months to start working on getting these stadiums ready in time and I hope when we come back in August or September, we will find progress. I would urge the officials of these stadiums that need work to look at the Military Production Stadium and what have they done and try to do the same. It will be good for the sport and for them as well."
The report was submitted to LOC chairman Hani Abou Rida who was scheduled to meet FIFA delegates in Zurich on Tuesday.
Warner asked the media not to consider his remarks as criticism. "I know you successfully hosted the 2006 African Nations Cup in Egypt and in these stadiums, but what's good for the African Nations Cup might not be necessarily good for FIFA. Let me remind you that this is the second largest event among the FIFA competitions after the World Cup. Egypt should be proud of hosting this event and therefore should take the opportunity of this advantage and improve your facilities because you do already have the perfect infrastructure."
Warner said he was confident the Egyptians will meet all the requirements in time.
"The reason I'm confident is that I can feel the support of the government. In four days, I met four government officials, the ministers of sports, communications, information and administrative development as well as governors and security officials. So with government support, the LOC members, media and the football passion of the Egyptian people, if you put them altogether you will guarantee a successful world class championship," Warner said.