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Baxter hoping Khune brings the magic

South Africa
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By ESPN Staff

Blatter warns that 'football is ill'

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has warned that 'football is ill' - and claimed brawling Arsenal and Chelsea players tarnished the image of the game.

Blatter said the mass brawl in the Carling Cup final, and the even worse violence between Valencia and Inter Milan players in the Champions League, brought shame on football.

He said he would raise the issue at the next FIFA Congress in May.

Blatter told a news conference at FIFA's Zurich headquarters: 'We have come to a crossroads of football, our football is ill.

'I see more and more financial interests over-riding people in club football especially.

'Even rich countries they are not capable of providing safe and comfortable stadia and I see that violence is everywhere, including inside the stadia.

'When you see what happened recently in big stadia, in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, when highly-paid players got involved in fights, which was nothing compared to what we saw later in Valencia.

'There are many other examples I could mention. Where is football leading to if players are now at each others' throats.

'What will people think if they see on TV these pictures of major football matches.

'We must act, and we will raise this at FIFA's next congress.'

Blatter also moved to quell doubts on preparations for the 2012 World Cup in South Africa, saying FIFA's executive committee were now satisfied with progress.

He said: 'The executive committee is now convinced South Africa will be a good host for the 2010 World Cup.

'At our last meeting in December there were queries, hesitations, even doubts expressed by some members of the executive committee.

'Today, they all stood united behind South Africa and we are happy overall. They will also have the privilege of hosting the Confederations Cup in 2009 as a test event.'