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Saturday, April 11, 2015

SAN MARINO'S NATIONAL TEAM PLAYS ON, BUT THE STORY REMAINS THE SAME

The players strike in San Marino has ended after it was agreed that discussions would take place between the FSGC (Federazione Sammarinese Giuoco Calcio - the San Marino FA) and the ASC (Associazione Sammarinese Calciatori, or the Sammarinese Footballers' Association) regarding a number of demands, which had been presented by the players' association over the last few months, which they claimed were not responded to by the FSGC.

On 17/3/15, a delegation from the ASC consisting of president Gian Luca Bollini, vice-president Andy Selva plus committee members Davide Simoncini met with San Marino's Secretary for Tourism and Sport Teodoro Lonferini at the latter's office and explained their stance to him. Secretary of State Lonferini agreed to convey a message from the ASC to FSGC president Crescentini requesting that both sides meet to discuss the players' demands.

The next day, the strike, which had been called on 13/3/15 (see previous article here on Pat's Football Blog - "Trouble Brewing in San Marino": http://patmcguinness.blogspot.nl/2015/03/trouble-brewing-in-san-marino.html), was lifted, at least temporarily, when the FSGC agreed to consider the players' demands and organise a series of discussions covering the relevant topics, which are due to take place from 13/4/15. These meetings will be aimed at addressing the players' demands and improving footballing standards in all walks of Sammarinese footballing life from youth level through to women's and national team levels.

On 24/3/15, vice-president of the ASC Andy Selva responded to a report carried on the RTV San Marino website, which claimed that the ASC had demanded an annual payment of some €98000 from the FSGC to help cover its activities, by requesting that the television station's director, Carlo Romeo, issue an apology for what he called a "false and unfounded" report. Romeo duly obliged, and added that, although the report came from what he called "a reliable source," the ASC had never mentioned the issue of financial assistance from the FSGC in any way, shape or form.

The San Marino team headed off to Ljubljana on 25/3/15 to take on Slovenia in their Euro 2016 qualifying match, though regular goalkeeper Aldo Simoncini was forced out of the team due to illness. The Libertas shotstopper's place was taken by Elia Benedettini from Murata, who would be making his first senior appearance for his country. 

On the day of the game, Secretary of State Lonferini expressed the hope that La Serenissima would, despite recent events, give a good account of themselves in the Slovenian capital, and, early on, Tre Penne midfielder Giovanni Bonini delivered the first shot in anger from the right-hand side after two minutes, which went a couple of yards wide. It was to prove San Marino's only attempt on goal throughout the entire 90 minutes.

San Marino went behind after ten minutes after Josef Ilicic was allowed to run through the defence, round Benedettini and stroke the ball into the empty net, and were under the cosh for the entire first half. Benedettini performed well, and, with the assistance on two occasions of the woodwork, ensured that his team went in at half-time only the one goal behind.


Any hopes that San Marino could perhaps eke out a surprise result were snuffed out within seven minutes of the restart, when Slovenia scored three goals in as many minutes through Kevin Kampl, Andraz Struna and Milivoje Novakovic as the visitors' defence crumbled. Just after the hour, Mirko Palazzi's cross from the left found Pier Filippo Mazza free at the far side of the penalty-area.

However, instead of having a shot on goal himself, he elected to chip the ball towards the centre of the Slovenian penalty-area where Andy Selva and José Hirsch were in space, but the ball was headed clear by a Slovenian defender.

Slovenia went on to add a further two goals in the last 20 minutes, courtesy of Dejan Lazarevic and Branko Ilic as the constant pressure on the San Marino defence told; the hosts had 46 attempts on goal during the course of the match. Despite conceding six goals in what was a record margin of victory for the home team, Benedettini was still very much the star man for Pierangelo Manzaroli's side on the night, pulling off no fewer than twelve saves.


Aldo Simoncini was back between the sticks for San Marino the following Tuesday afternoon, when La Serenissima went to Liechtenstein to take on the locals in a friendly, which took place in the village of Eschen, and they started brightly enough with some early pressure on the hosts which, after a scramble in the box, resulted in Danilo Rinaldi forcing Jehle into a save.

Simon Kühne and Martin Buchel had efforts from outside the box for the home team which were comfortably saved by Simoncini, whist Andy Silva had a go for San Marino from outside the box after 10 minutes which was no problem for Jehle. Dennis Salanovic went on a run down the left and prodded in a shot from 6 yards which trickled past Simoncini's right-hand post.

Kühle found himself clear on the right-hand side of the San Marino penalty-area in the 27th minute, but Alessandro Della Valle blocked his shot just in time. The resulting corner was floated in over the mass of bodies in the six-yard area and found Dennis Hartmann, who, standing all alone some five yards out from an unguarded far post having escaped the attentions of Fabio Vitaioli, headed the ball home with ease to give Liechtenstein the lead. 

The Serenissima were guilty of ball-watching, leaving the far post unguarded and being as static as a bunch of concrete poles, and the reaction of captain Andy Selva after the goal said it all: a shake of the head and a face which read "here we go again."

Liechtenstein were in the ascendancy as far as possession was concerned, but were unable to fashion a clear-cut chance to double their lead. San Marino should have been on level terms going in at the break; a ball from the half-way line was collected by Selva on the right-hand side, and his cross-pass just outside the penalty-area was met by Mirko Palazzi, who got his shot on target only for Jehle to parry it out towards the onrushing Danilo Rinaldi, who although off-balance, should have done better than to spoon the ball high and wide from seven yards out.

The second-half began rather scrappily, and Fabio Vitaioli's dangerous free-kick from central midfield evaded the Liechtenstein defence, but also Selva and Davide Simoncini and floated wide. On the hour, a corner from the right was flicked on by Basler, but Simoncini punched the ball clear at his left-hand post. 

A period of scrappy play and a raft of substitutions followed, but, with 10 minutes left, La Serenissima almost equalised when Lorenzo Gasperoni tapped a free-kick into the path of Vitaioli, whose rasping shot from distance was well tipped over by substitute 'keeper Benjamin Büchel.

There were no more real efforts on goal from either team, and Liechtenstein ran out 1:0 winners, which was some comfort to them after they were swept aside at home the previous Friday by neighbours Austria, who scored five without reply. For San Marino, however, it was the same old story.

A  1:0 win for the hosts was probably the right result, though San Marino did have their chances in a game where chances were few and far between. Vitaioli and Davide Simoncini were possibly the two best players on the pitch for the men in white, who played with purpose and no little tenacity but were lacking a little putch upfront.

It has been claimed in the past by sections of the English media that the standard of football in San Marino has not improved in recent years, but has actually gone backwards. Rather than going backwards, the standard has perhaps stalled whilst most of the rest of European football has progressed, and there are, in the humble opinion of your correspondent, various reasons for this.

San Marino has a population of some 33000 people, which intimates that the country has an extremely small pool of adult footballers of Sammarinese origin; there are also a large number of Italians and other foreign nationals taking part in national competitions. 

The country has an notoriously and extremely strict citizenship policy; for example, a foreign national can only obtain Sammarinese citizenship after having lived in the republic for a period of not less than 30 years (unless married to someone with Sammarinese nationality, in which case the required period of residency is reduced to 15 years).

One of the reasons for the players' strike in March was the failure of the FSGC to act on various proposals aimed at improving the standard of football in the country; Andy Selva, vice-president of the ASC (L'Associazione Sammarinese Calciatori), said at the time that players trained "2 to 3 times per week," and that the country had not produced a "decent player in the last 30 years." 

This brings to mind a quote, made several years ago by former Luxembourg national team manager Paul Phillippe, then manager of F91 Dudelange, who criticised the fitness standards of Tre Penne players after his team comprehensively defeated the Sammarinese club side over two legs of a European tie, saying that their opponents "did not have to be good, but they at least had to be fit."

Taking into account Selva's comments, the national team's players will need to train 4 or 5 times per week, but this might not sit well with the employers of those who are currently working in evening jobs. However, the needs of those toiling at night could be catered for by the provision of morning or afternoon training-sessions on a full-time basis, with said sessons being open, not just for players of national team standard but for Sammarinese players of all abilities, which would help bring up the standard in the country as a whole.

Perhaps it is time to bring in some form of long-term assistance from outside the country; this may well come up at some stage during the proposed series of meetings between the FSCG and the ASC. This does not mean that national team manager Pierangelo Manzaroli should be sacked, but that he should be given every assistance necessary to be able to carry out his duties in the best possible manner. 

There does not appear to be any form of an agreement or partnership between the FSGC and their Italian counterparts (the FIGC); it would surely not do any harm for the FSGC to explore this avenue, or to approach UEFA for help should they find it necessary to do so. For the moment, however, it is up to the FSGC and the ASC to help each other in order to come to some sort of agreement as to how to move football forward in San Marino at all levels; progress must surely follow.

Encouragement can be gleaned from the performance of their under-16 side at the recent UEFA development tournament in Gibraltar, where they lost 3:0 to the hosts despite dominating large swathes of the game. They then lost 1:0 to Macedonia before defeating Malta 2:1, a victory which was apparently richly deserved.

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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Apart from gleaning information from the RTV San Marino website, information was also gathered from the UEFA website and that of Volksblatt.li. With regard to San Marino's citizenship laws, kindly go to the following link, where those of you with a much better grasp of Italian can read all about the subject:

http://www.esteri.sm/on-line/en/home/stay-and-residence-permits.html


As ever, the fault for any errors/omissions lies at the door of the author (apologies in advance); these shall be amended/inserted as soon as any notification of same is received.












Thursday, April 2, 2015

THE LONG WAIT IS OVER FOR MUSEI VATICANI

Reigning champions San Pietro were expected to win the 2014-15 edition of the Campionato Vaticano and continue their domination of national competition, which would have been their third championship title in a row.

However, they were denied at the last by Musei Vaticani who, by defeating them 2:1 in the championship final which took place on 30/3/15, ended what the English would quite possibly call their own "thirty-two years of hurt." Musei Vaticani were previously known as SS Hermes, and had previously won the Campionato Vaticano - for the one and only time - under that name back in 1983.

How the side representing the Vatican Museum will fare in this year's Coppa Sergio Valci is anyone's guess, but they will no doubt be among the front-runners to lift the trophy, along with San Pietro. The competition is due to commence on 13/4/15.

Please find below the list of results for the 2014-15 Campionato Vaticano.

REGULAR SEASON

13/10/14 19:45 Ass. SS P & P 1:6 San Pietro
13/10/14 20:45 Fortitudo/Pantheon 1:3 Dirtel
14/10/14 20:45 Guardia 2:3 Santos
20/10/14 19:45 Musei Vaticani 1:2 Dirtel
20/10/14 20:45 San Pietro 2:2 Fortitudo/Pantheon 
21/10/14 20:45 Ass. SS P & P 3:2 Guardia
27/10/14 19:45 Santos 1:1 San Pietro
27/10/14 20:45 Dirtel 1:0 Ass. SS P & P
28/10/14 20:45 Guardia 1:2 Musei Vaticani
03/11/14 19:45 Ass. SS P & P 2:2 Fortitudo/Pantheon 
03/11/14 20:45 Musei Vaticani 0:0 Santos
04/11/14 20:45 Guardia 2:1 Dirtel
10/11/14 19:45 San Pietro 2:0 Musei Vaticani
10/11/14 20:45 Santos 3:1 Ass. SS P & P
11/11/14 20:45 Fortitudo/Pantheon 1:2 Guardia
17/11/14 19:45 Fortitudo/Pantheon 0:4 Santos
17/11/14 20:45 Dirtel 1:3 San Pietro
18/11/14 20:45 Musei Vaticani 4:0 Ass. SS P & P
24/11/14 19:45 Santos 2:3 Dirtel
24/11/14 20:45 Musei Vaticani 7:0 Fortitudo/Pantheon
25/11/14 20:45 Guardia 1:3 San Pietro
01/12/14 19:45 Dirtel 4:1 Fortitudo/Pantheon
01/12/14 20:45 San Pietro 3:0 Ass. SS P & P*
02/12/14 20:45 Santos 1:1 Guardia
02/02/15 19:45 Fortitudo/Pantheon 2:3 San Pietro
02/02/15 20:45 Dirtel 3:2 Musei Vaticani
09/02/15 19:45 Ass. SS P & P 0:1 Dirtel
09/02/15 20:45 San Pietro 4:1 Santos
10/02/15 20:45 Musei Vaticani 4:1 Guardia
13/02/15 20:45 Guardia 3:0 Ass. SS P & P**
16/02/15 19:45 Musei Vaticani 2:1 Santos
16/02/15 20:45 Fortitudo/Pantheon 3:0 Ass. SS P & P
17/02/15 20:45 Dirtel 2:1 Guardia
23/02/15 19:45 Ass. SS P & P 3:5 Santos
23/02/15 20:45 Musei Vaticani 4:3 San Pietro
24/02/15 20:45 Guardia 3:0 Fortitudo/Pantheon
02/03/15 19:45 San Pietro 0:0 Dirtel
02/03/15 20:45 Ass. SS P & P 0:3 Musei Vaticani
03/03/15 20:45 Santos 2:0 Fortitudo/Pantheon
09/03/15 19:45 Fortitudo/Pantheon 4:5 Musei Vaticani
09/03/15 20:45 Dirtel 2:5 Santos
10/03/15 20:45 San Pietro 11:1 Guardia

TEAM
P
W
D
L
GF
GA
PTS
GD
SAN PIETRO
12
8
3
1
41
14
27
27
DIRTEL
12
8
1
3
23
18
25
5
MUSEI VATICANI
12
8
1
3
34
17
25
17
SANTOS
12
6
3
3
28
19
21
9
Guardia
12
4
1
7
20
29
13
-9
Fortitudo/Pantheon
12
1
2
9
16
37
5
-21
Ass. SS P&P
12
1
1
10
10
37
4
-27
 

SEMI-FINALS

16/03/15 19:45 Santos (Morabito 3) 3:1 San Pietro (Goxhaj) (SF1)
16/03/15 20:45 Musei Vaticani (Marini, Cara) 2:1 Dirtel (Carilli) (SF2)
23/03/14 19:45 Dirtel 0:1 Musei Vaticani (Berdini) (1:3 on agg.) (SF2)
23/03/14 20:45 San Pietro*** (Goxhaj, Palmieri, Puoti) 3:1 Santos (4:4 on agg.) (SF1)

THIRD-PLACE FINAL

30/3/15 20:00 Dirtel (Lucarelli, Tiburzi) 2:2 Santos (Perinelli 2) (Dirtel 7:6 on penalties)

FINAL

30/03/15 19:45 San Pietro (Chirieletti) 1:2 Musei Vaticani (Quarta, Bnà)

TOP SCORERS

19 Quarta (Musei Vaticani)
12 Chirieletti (San Pietro)
10 Goxhaj (San Pietro)
8 Carilli (Dirtel)
8 Puoti (San Pietro)
8 Rossi (Santos)

*NOTE: Match was replayed after the first attempt to complete the fixture was unsuccessful, having been abandoned after 24 minutes due to a waterlogged pitch. Ass. SS P&P were leading 1:0 at the time.

**NOTE: The original fixture, due to be played ten days earlier, was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.

***NOTE: San Pietro qualified for the final, despite both teams finishing level on aggregate, due to the fact that they topped the table at the end of the regular league season.

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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Many thanks, as always, to the ACDV (Attività Calcistica Dipendenti Vaticani) and Aurelio for kindly providing the above information. Any errors/omissions are, as ever, down to the author and corrections shall be made upon notification of same.

Monday, March 16, 2015

TROUBLE BREWING IN SAN MARINO

With less than a fortnight to go until San Marino's national side travel to Slovenia to take on their Euro 2016 opponents in Ljubljana, preparations have been thrown into disarray by the country's recently-formed players union (L'Associazione Sammarinese Calciatori or ASC) taking the decision on 13/3/15 to go on strike.

ASC president Luca Bollini told San Marino RTV that the decision to strike had not been an easy one to take, but was "necessary" and had been taken following the lack of a response to a series of proposals delivered to the FSGC (San Marino FA) last September. 

Said proposals concerned areas such as the national team, women's football in the country, Futsal, the coaching of children, the implementation of a proper physiotherapy system, the appointment of a team manager, and the national championship. A letter was apparently forwarded to the FSGC complaining of "a lack of dialogue with the [FSGC] in the person of the General Secretary (Luciano Casadei)."

Bollini added that the ASC had consistently sought dialogue with the FSGC, and had sought a response from the San Marino FA's board with regard to the projects they had proposed, but have yet to receive a response. "Since we founded the Association, we have always sought dialogue throughout the movement. We want there to be an open dialogue, the movement is growing, we are the protagonists and we have the right to be heard."

A training session under national team manager Pierangelo Manzaroli is due to be held on 16/3/15, but, at the time of writing, it appears as though it will, at best, be sparsely attended. "I'm sorry to have arrived at such a point less than 20 days before such an important game," Bollini said, "but if you don't take such a position you won't get anywhere."

Vice-president of the ASC and record goalscorer for La Serenissima Andy Selva went further, saying that the association "never thought we would have to go so far. But. if on one hand we are sorry, on the other we have to protect our players. We presented 7 or 8 projects [to the FSGC] but we have never been taken into account."

"We presented the projects in September and we still don't know whether they are being approved or discussed. We are on strike as from yesterday (14/3/15). We expect a confrontation with the federation..and should the situation remain as it is, we will not turn up for training on Monday (16/3/15)."

In an article which appeared on the website of Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Selva was reported as saying: "We want to collaborate to improve football, if our football hasn't produced a player [of quality] in the last thirty years, there has to be a reason for this. We aren't looking to dictate things, but to discuss them. We have a project which we would like to be examined by the [FSGC] board."

"For example? It isn't right that a player should receive €60 for playing in a friendly in Liechtenstein [this match is due to take place in Eschen-Mauren four days after the game in Ljubljana], then have to pay taxes and take two days off work. It's trivial, but this is what happens to us."

Selva also repeated the above to another news organisation, and also questioned why there wasn't a supervisory body for technical matters, and whether managers have the correct coaching qualifications. He also said that the players "are not represented on the [FSGC] board. The federation says that we must be elected by a club, but we are not able to wait a year to present a draft..We are willing to co-operate, we are a group of players willing to improve our football..We are here to discuss things, not make the rules. We hope for a meeting open to dialogue."

Meanwhile, the president of San Marino's governing body, Giorgio Crescentini, reacted strongly to the strike announcement: "It's an absurd strike. If these gentlemen want to go and destroy Sammarinese football, let them. They won't go to Slovenia? Fine, we'll withdraw all our teams from international competition and UEFA will ban us from all competitions. We will not be blackmailed by anyone. 

"They are creating enormous damage to the image of the federation and the country at international level. These are not the ways and means to deal with any problems and I find the attitude of this [new organisation] which wants to enter the federation and start calling the shots. It is an unhappy issue, and this federation and its leaders deserve respect for what they have done over the last 25 years."

Crescentini apparently confessed to Italian press agency Italpress that he had been "caught by surprise" by events as he had been away for a few days, and added that there was daily contact with ASC representatives.He also said that the allegations against FSGC secretary Casadei were "biased and untrue", but also expressed the hope that all grievances would be addressed before the team is due to leave for Slovenia.

The Sammarinese Secretary for Sport, Teodoro Lonferini, called the ASC's stance "inappropriate" but echoed Crescentini's confidence that the situation would be resolved before the match on 27/3/14.

If the situation is not resolved before the aforementioned date and San Marino are unable to fulfil the fixture in Slovenia, UEFA's Control and Disciplinary Body would most probably hurriedly convene to discuss the matter and could throw the book at the FSGC, especially if the association decides to withdraw all teams from UEFA competition. 


The association could risk forfeiting the point the national team gained at home to Estonia at the tail-end of last year, and under Article 27.04 of the UEFA Euro 2016 Regulations, would lose the rights to all payments due to it from UEFA. Indeed, UEFA could also fine the FSGC, request that payments made to it by them be returned and ban the Sammarinese organisation from all future competitions. 

That would spell disaster for football in San Marino and could set development back decades, if indeed football in UEFA's second smallest member state would ever recover. Should San Marino be banned from UEFA and FIFA competitions, certain sections of the media and football fandom, who already deride San Marino's national side as the laughing-stock of European football, would claim justification regarding their calls for the smaller countries to be excluded from UEFA and FIFA competition, saying that the FSGC is not competent enough to fielding an international team or organise its own affairs.

Crescentini is correct in saying that any strike would undermine football in the republic, and also the country's image abroad in all sorts of ways. It has to be said that the timing of the strike is more than unfortunate; the ASC would have been better suited to waiting until the end of qualifying competition for Euro 2016 before calling for strike action.

On the other hand, the FSGC could, and should, bend somewhat and allow player representation on its board, and also liaise with the ASC to set out a timetable for discussion and possible implementation of the grievances of the association's members. If the players do have ideas to improve and promote football in San Marino both locally and internationally, they should be listened to. Without players, there is no national governing body.


As ever, though, the truth probably lies somewhere in between the positions of both the FSGC and the ASC. What is obvious, however, is the fact that both sides are taking the situation seriously and that in itself is encouraging, but they must move quickly to repair the damage caused by this historic, though unwanted, scenario which is now facing football in San Marino. The reputation and future of football in San Marino could be at stake, and no-one with the interests of football in the country at heart, both within and without the state, would want to see either damaged.
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AUTHOR'S NOTE: The information contained above was gathered from the RTV San Marino, Corriere Romagna  and La Repubblica websites, amongst others. As per usual, any errors, either in translation or the content itself, are the author's own; corrections will gladly be made upon notification.

Monday, March 9, 2015

FIFA PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN - MICHAEL VAN PRAAG ANNOUNCES HIS MANIFESTO

KNVB chairman Michael van Praag laid out his manifesto for the forthcoming FIFA presidential election at an extraordinary general meeting of the Dutch FA in Zeist on 2/3/15. Two of the other three candidates - Jordan's Prince Ali Bin-Hussein and former Portuguese international Luis Figo - have already stated their cases. Only Sepp Blatter, the incumbent holder of football's top job, has yet to inform the football world of his plans, and quite possibly does not feel the need to do so.

Van Praag's manifesto was not quite the only item on the agenda; the KNVB provided details of their progress in building their new KNVB Campus, which will service the training needs of every Dutch national side up to U-21 and women's national team level. The new facility, which should be completed in mid-2016, will also be used to train referees; the federation's new offices and a hotel are also to be situated on-site. The meeting also covered a vote ratifying van Praag's candidacy and the KNVB's covering of the costs involved.

The meeting was brought forward some three hours ahead of schedule in order to facilitate van Praag's early departure for Ascunción, Paraguay, to attend the COMNEBÓL congress; as a result, the scheduled press conference was cancelled, thus denying the assembled press the opportunity to question the KNVB chief on his manifesto.

EVERY JOURNEY STARTS WITH A GENERAL MEETING: Michael van Praag arrives at the Woudschoten Hotel and Conference Centre, Zeist, ahead of the KNVB's Extraordinary General Meeting which was called to discuss his candidacy for the FIFA presidency

His trip to Paraguay was his first real chance to "press the flesh"; on 29/1/15, the day of his candidacy announcement, he already had the support of the five national associations needed to mount his campaign. Apart from the KNVB, of course, the SFA and the governing bodies representing football in Belgium, Romania and the Faroe Islands had already provided written guarantees of their support, which were delivered to FIFA HQ in Zürich the day before his announcement.

The manifesto itself contained much food for thought, and van Praag began by announcing that his campaign would be carried out under the title "Football For Everyone." He mentioned that the KNVB were the first football association to fully recognise the rights of the LGBT community (that will most probably be enough to cost him the vote of the Russian FA), and also that they were one of the first to combat racism and sexism in football).

He stated that, should he be voted in as the next FIFA president, that costs would be brought down to an acceptable level and that profligate projects such as the promotional film that was brought out last year at a cost of some €20000000 would become a thing of the past. The financial gap between the richest and the poorest countries was growing annually, he said, and this would have to stop.

During his announcing of his candidacy on 29/1/14, van Praag promised that he would only serve one term as FIFA president should he be elected, and that he repeated that promise at the congress, adding that he would sign a promise to do so should that be required. He also said that it was the duty of his generation to leave FIFA in a better state for the next generation.

A world trainers' academy would be introduced, where there would be a guaranteed transfer of knowledge and that there would be a discussion as to which training methods were the best and that these would be implemented. 

Similarly, a central referee's academy would be created in order to avoid confusion and conflict among referees with regard to decisions. There would be more room for modern technology in football; van Praag conceded that it would be impossible to implement the use of video technology everywhere, but that it would be used wherever possible. Why, he asked, should the referee be the only person in the entire stadium without access to a replay of a controversial decision during a match when those watching can call up a replay in seconds (unless, of course, they are spending the entire match taking selfies - it might be an idea to request a ban on selfie sticks in stadia)?

The creation of FIFA regional embassies was mooted; there would be at least one per confederation, and their function would be to liaise with football associations which fall under the umbrella of a particular confederation. A Presidents' Board would also be set up; this would involve the heads of the six confederations in decision-making and "give FIFA some of its structure back."

Van Praag was of the opinion that most countries never get the chance to qualify for a major tournament; so, a proposal to increase in the number of countries participating at a World Cup final tournament from 32 countries to 40 was announced, with every one of the 6 confederations receiving an extra place, and that the (co-)hosts, and also the winners of the previous tournament, would also receive a guaranteed place. Should the situation arise where there would only be one host country, this would leave one place free; this would be filled by organising a play-off series.

The above proposal to ensure that each continental governing body would receive an extra place at a World Cup Finals might well be enough to swing the votes of every country in Oceania van Praag's way; after all, itremains the only confederation without an automatic qualifier for the World Cup Finals.

The OFC member states might also benefit from another of van Praag's proposals; he suggested that the annual donation to each FIFA member association would increase from $US 250000 per year to $US1000000. A budget - in addition to FIFA's GOAL project - would be made available for member countries to improve their football infrastructures where needed. 

IN THE FIRING-LINE: KNVB chairman Michael van Praag prepares for the extraordinary general meeting which ratified his candidacy for the FIFA presidency

More prize-money would be made available to World Cup and Confederations Cup qualifiers, but costs would be kept down as FIFA would arrange accommodation for the teams. There would be better insurance for players at World Cup tournaments, but also for those taking part in U-20 and U-18 tournaments and qualifiers.

Van Praag also touched on the need to bring the Garcia Report into the public domain, as FIFA should behave in a normal, decent fashion and be transparent in all facets of its operation. All decisions taken by the ExCo (FIFA's Executive Committee) He would also lay his, and all of the organisation's accounts, open for inspection per proper international accounting standards.

As if to emphasise this, he then informed the gathering that his campaign team would comprise of individuals and organisations from outside the KNVB, and thereafter made public the projected costs for his campaign, which are divided as follows:

Travel: €132750
Campaign literature, communication, etc.: €225000
Other: €36788
Total: €394538

Van Praag concluded by saying that every campaign needs financing, but "if the underdog scores one more goal than the favourite, they've won the match."

There then followed an opportunity for delegates to provide their opinions on van Praag's candidacy, and one of the main officials in the amateur branch of the KNVB stated his opposition to the candidacy, saying that there was much to discuss as that there had been problems in the amateur section due to 50 of its members losing their jobs in the last year due to cost-cutting within the KNVB (the overall total of jobs lost came to around 70), and asked why should the KNVB now spend €400000 on a FIFA presidential campaign? He added that this will cost amateur football a lot, and enquired as to whom would foot the bill for the campaign should the present assembly refuse to endorse van Praag's candidacy.

One of the platform informed the delegates that van Praag, like everyone else in the room, was a volunteer within the KNVB, but would underwrite the entire cost of the campaign himself should the congress refuse to endorse his candidacy for the FIFA hot-seat and also refuse to ratify the KNVB covering the costs of the campaign.

Van Praag added that one-to-one discussions were already underway with various European individuals regarding his campaign, and that a report would be issued every fortnight which would inform its readers about costs incurred during that period and any other developments regarding his campaign.

Another delegate asked whether there was an agreement between the three challengers to Blatter's reign; a response came from the platform that there were no such agreements, but if the three of them were to come to any agreement, this would not be made public.

STATING THE CASE: Michael van Praag delivers his manifesto to the assembled press corps

Before the delegates voted on endorsing van Praag's campaign and the ratification of providing the aforementioned costs, van Praag thanked those present and those who voiced their opinions and said that the "other candidates will not be holding meetings such as this one today."

Van Praag's candidacy and the accompanying costs were approved by an overwhelming majority, but not quite unanimously; out of the 48 votes cast (including via proxy), four delegates voted against whilst one abstained.

There was no further business on the agenda, so it was off downstairs to listen to van Praag deliver his manifesto speech in English before he was hurried out of the press-room and off to Schiphol Airport for his flight to South America.

Michael van Praag's speech shall appear here in full shortly.

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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Sincere thanks are due to Marushka van Soest from the KNVB for her assistance with regard to attending the above meeting and statement to the press. Any errors can be attributed to mistranslation.

Questions have been forwarded to the KNVB and Michael van Praag's team regarding his candidacy and opinions on a number of subjects, as well as to those in charge of the campaigns by Luis Figo and Prince Ali Bin-Hussein and to FIFA for president Sepp Blatter's thoughts.