Monday, 8 January 2007

Blatter apologises!

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has apologised to Italy for not presenting the Azzurri with the World Cup trophy in Berlin. “It was a mistake,” he declared.

The head of world football’s governing body had infuriated Italian fans by failing to hand over the World Cup to captain Fabio Cannavaro at the end of the July 9 win over France. This was despite the fact that he was in the stands in Berlin, with UEFA President Lennart Johansson instead presenting La Nazionale with the trophy.

“History will say that it was a mistake for the FIFA President not to present Italy with their award and I admit that it was an error,” said Blatter on Monday in Rome, where he will attend a ceremony honouring the 23-man World Cup winning squad and coach Marcello Lippi.

But the Azzurri were incensed at what they saw as a deliberate snub, accusing FIFA of being "anti-Italian". But Blatter claimed he was whistled by fans before the match had begun and wanted to avoid further embarrassment to the organisers. “I had already apologised to the Italian officials right after the final. I only wanted to avoid being booed,” added the Swiss official.

Blatter also sought to clarify a statement he made in October, when he suggested in an interview with Australian TV that Italy were lucky to reach the quarter-finals after they were awarded a controversial injury time penalty against the Aussies.

“Italy deserved to win the World Cup. The Azzurri were in a difficult situation in Germany and reacted well, playing excellent football. My words in the interview to the Australian television were misunderstood, you just needed to listen to the tape to understand that I didn’t say what was then reported.”

Blatter was also asked if he would have anything to say to Marco Materazzi, the man who was head-butted by Zinedine Zidane in the final. “Really, I'm here to meet with all the Azzurri. There will be peace one day with Zidane. What he did you can't justify, but there is the justice of FIFA which is autonomous,” Blatter said.

Materazzi recieced a two-game ban for 'provoking' Zidane, while the former France captain received a three-match suspension. Zidane's punishment was moot, however, because he retired after the World Cup.

Each of the Italian players are being awarded the Cavaliere Ufficiale - one of the country's highest public service decorations, while Lippi is being awarded with the Commendatore honour.

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