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Soccer Chief Praises U.S. as Host of Cup

FIFA President Joseph 'Sepp' Blatter thanks organizers for quick work. He credits the WUSA with making the event more competitive.

October 09, 2003|Paul Gutierrez | Times Staff Writer

The president of soccer's world governing body Wednesday praised the United States for the job it has done as host for this year's relocated Women's World Cup -- and expressed some surprise that the American team won't be involved in the final.

Speaking at a news conference in Long Beach, FIFA President Joseph "Sepp" Blatter, who had come from Zurich for this weekend's final- and third-place matches at the Home Depot Center in Carson, also marveled at the competition's parity and lamented the demise of the WUSA.

"I was surprised, but it was a positive surprise by the work done [by the U.S.] in such a short time," said Blatter, complimenting organizers for stepping in when China, the planned host of the quadrennial tournament, had to step aside because of the SARS epidemic.

"Last time they had four years [to prepare]. This time they had four months. And I congratulate them."

As for the competition, Blatter said, "There was no big difference between the teams of all continents, perhaps with one exception. The gap between the leaders and the [others] is becoming narrow."

The U.S. and China, which many expected to meet in the final, both lost in upsets, China in a quarterfinal by Canada and the U.S. in a semifinal against Germany. It will be Sweden and Germany playing for the title.

"From the FIFA point of view, we would have liked to have had also in the last four perhaps, one Asian" team, Blatter said.

Blatter credited the WUSA, which served as a home for many international players, with making this Women's World Cup more competitive.

"And I do hope and I cross fingers that a solution will be found, specifically after the big success of this competition that the women's professional league can go on," he said. "This is tangible -- that this women's professional league has produced now this good women's football."

Still, Blatter, who often has said, "The future of football is feminine," had no answer when asked why the winners of the Women's World Cup did not get a cash prize, like their male counterparts. He did, however, say that FIFA would try to use its influence with sponsors to help resurrect the WUSA.

"I always wonder why ... they are not recognized as a social or economical power in America, where the economy is in the headlines," Blatter said of America's female professional athletes. "I think we should find together a solution, and this would help bring back the WUSA league."

*

Joy Fawcett, Shannon Boxx and Mia Hamm of the U.S. were selected to the 16-member all-tournament team. The others: Germany's Silke Rottenberg, Sandra Minnert, Bettina Wiegmann, Maren Meinert and Birgit Prinz; Sweden's Caroline Jonsson, Malin Mostrom and Victoria Svensson; Norway's Solveig Gulbrandsen and Dagny Mellgren; China's Liping Wang; Canada's Charmaine Hooper; and Brazil's Marta.

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