DESCRIBING himself as a “godfather” to women’s football at FIFA, Sepp Blatter has acknowledged that its appeal still trails behind the men’s game.
Still, the Women’s World Cup kicking off June 6 in Canada can be a “market opener,” the FIFA president told BBC World Service radio in an interview broadcast Thursday.
Blatter challenged the teams in the expanded 24-nation tournament to help achieve that breakthrough by putting on a high-quality show.
“Women’s football must market itself. It’s a product and the product must have quality,” Blatter told the British state broadcaster. “Now it’s up to the ladies in this World Cup to show that it’s a great event because the television coverage will be done exactly like the FIFA World Cup.”
He recalled that FIFA started focusing on women’s football in 1988, when he was its top administrator. The first Women’s World Cup was played in 1991.
“I consider myself a little bit as a godfather of the organization of women’s football in FIFA,” Blatter said, while accepting that “there is still a lot to do.”
“Women’s football is still limping a little bit behind,” said the FIFA head, who in 2004 suggested players could wear tighter shorts to help market their game. “Men’s football should share with women’s football to get new partners for women’s football. It is not easy because the market is focused on men’s football.”
In a rare interview during his campaign to win re-election on May 29, Blatter did not directly address his pursuit of a fifth term in office to extend his 17-year presidential reign.
However, the 79-year-old Swiss did promise to attend the month-long women’s tournament in Canada whatever the election result.
“I am very eager to know if 24 teams is the right number,” he said of a tournament which had 16 teams four years ago when Japan won in Germany. “I am sure it is the right number but it has to be confirmed by the quality of the teams participating.”