(Roundup) FIFA president meets with Raul Castro, concludes visit to Cuba

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Visiting president of the International Soccer Federation (FIFA), the Swiss Joseph Blatter held talks here Wednesday with Cuban President, Army General Raul Castro, as the last stage of his schedule on the island, the official media said.

According to the official release published by the National Information Agency (AIN) Castro and Blatter talked on the development of soccer in Cuba and the local projects impelled for several years with the support of the FIFA, concerning to the professional training of coaches and referees, holding competitions, and the repair of sport institutions.

During the reunion, Blatter praised the Cuban project to develop soccer and said it is a model to be followed by other countries, due to the union of the country's authorities with the association of the discipline.

The Castro-Blatter meeting was also attended by Cuban First vice-president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, Jose Ramon Fernandez, president of the Cuban Olympic Committee; and Christian Jimenez, president of the National Institute of Sports and Recreation (INDER).

At the talks participated also Jeffrey Webb, vice-president of the FIFA and president of the North, Central America and the Caribbean Soccer Confederation (CONCACAF), and Jerome Valcke, general secretary of the FIFA, who accompanied Blatter to the island.

The FIFA leader and his delegation arrived in Havana on Tuesday for a two-day visit as part of a regional tour including the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Panama, as the next stage, where he will participate at the CONCACAF congress.

He was welcomed at the airport by the president of the Cuban Olympic Committee, Jose Ramon Fernandez, and the INDER president, Christian Jimenez.

"It is a pleasure for me to be here again, thirteen years after my first visit in November 2000. Cuba is great member of the FIFA, which has offered us all its support in difficult situations and I am happy of returning to this country," he said after landing on Cuban soil.

During his stay in Havana, Blatter supervised the projects of the Goal program sponsored by the FIFA to install an artificial pitch at the La Polar Stadium, as part of the renovation undertaken in that field, the main soccer stadium on the island.

He also visited the National Soccer School Mario Lopez, built by the benefits of the FIFA Goal Project, and conversed with players of the local juvenile selection, who made history when classifying to the next World cup U-20, Turkey-2013. Those youths have a big motivation to defend the Cuba's colours, Blatter said.

Wednesday, the FIFA leader offered a press conference and stressed the good relationships between the Cuban government and the soccer authorities in the island.

Blatter praised the government's support to the national Cuban Soccer Association in all aspects, fundamentally in the expenses, formation of trainers and professors, as well as the inclusion of the discipline in the school programs.

In this country exists a great solidarity between the political and the soccer authorities, what could mean a pilot project for all the small associations, he said.

The visiting sportive leader congratulated as well the Cuban Association for the centennial of the first soccer game competed in the island, marked on December, 11 2011.

He expressed to be happy and pleased for what he had seen in Cuba and qualified in crescendo the current position of that sport on the island where baseball is the national sport.

During the press conference on Wednesday, Blatter condemned the terror attacks perpetrated in the Marathon of Boston, and gave his condolence to Thomas M. Page and Thomas Grilk, major and the executive director of the Athletics Commission of that US city, respectively.

Those are cowardly actions constituting an attack against the citizens from Boston, but also against the sport, its ethics and discipline, he said on the attack occurred Monday in Boston, Massachussets.

Blatter asked the international sport community to unite before those attacks and highlighted that to guarantee the security of the World Cup of Brazil-2014, the FIFA will work with the police of the classifying countries and the INTERPOL.

This was Blatter's second trip to Cuba after a previous visit in 2000.Although Cuba is an Olympic power, soccer is one of the sports of smaller development in the island, which has participated in a World Cup only as invited in France-1938, and occupies currently the place 165 at the FIFA ranking. Endi

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