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Jan 18, 2006

Blatter wants more African teams at World Cup

CAIRO, Jan 18 (Reuters) - FIFA president Sepp Blatter called on Wednesday for African countries to be given a bigger presence at future World Cup finals.

Africa will have five countries when the 2006 finals in Germany kick off in June - Ivory Coast, Ghana, Angola, Tunisia and Togo - and will be hosting the 2010 finals for the first time, in South Africa.

Though FIFA have not finalised whether South Africa will cost the continent a place at 2010 or will add a sixth slot, Blatter clearly indicated he favoured the latter.

Highlighting that five African countries would be alongside 14 from Europe in Germany, Blatter told the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Congress: 'I don't need to explain the rules of mathematics.

'Those with a bigger representation will automatically, and perhaps even logically, have a better chance.

'What must be done? You have to fight on the pitch and I can assure you that we will continue to fight for a better African representation at the World Cup,' he said, as applause broke out among delegates.

'In 1998, when I was on the way to the FIFA presidency I had... a project in mind to bring the World Cup to Africa. That has now been done.'

Blatter said sceptics who had predicted that a World Cup in Africa would generate less money than previous tournaments had been proved wrong and said South Africa would be a bigger success than Germany.

'The market has not been mistaken, it's the prophets who have made a mistake,' Blatter said.

'The 2010 World Cup, with most of the contracts that we have have reached with television and sponsors, will bring in more money than that of 2006.

'That means that football is an excellent product... that the FIFA World Cup is even bigger because it has a bigger audience than the Olympic Games, every one wants to be there, and thirdly, and for more me the most important thing, it means people have confidence in Africa.'

'The whole world will be behind this World Cup.'

Blatter said that extra money would be available for football development programmes, including an initiative to enable young talented African players to have a career on their own continent, rather than move to Europe.

'Obviously, you'll still need a few stars elsewhere in the world, but not the hundreds and thousands who play in the second or third divisions in other countries,' he said.