— J-Lo rocking the Tofig Bakhramov stadium plus long and loud cheers for FIFA president Sepp Blatter . . .  what more positive and even surreal start could anyone ask of one of the more modest yet worthy of the world federation’s competitions?

The FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup Azerbaijan 2012, to offer its full and correct and awkward title, is also a showcase for some of the best of the work undertaken by FIFA staff across the world with little or no recognition by the mainstream media which prefers to focus its headlines on other ‘activities.’

Jennifer Lopez at the football in Baku . . .

But Azerbaijan and Baku– on the ancient Silk Route from east to west – has welcomed the opportunity to host a major international federation and one of its events. This may not be the Olympic Games, of which the Azeris dreamed over-optimistically until a sharp awakening from the IOC last May, but it is a start.

The occasion is also a start for a partnership – with the support of the Azeri Ministry of Sports and Youth and the Azerbaijan National Olympic Committee – between FIFA and AIPS. The international sports journalists’ association has organized an International Young Reporters course during these finals and Blatter offered his full support on the eve of the footballing kickoff.

He told the 17 visiting young reporters – from Colombia to China – that sports journalists were privileged in being able to transmit the emotions from sport to the rest of the world and to spread the message of hope, “that if you don’t win today, you can win tomorrow.”

Blatter – who later received an ovation on his arrival in the Bahramov stadium – said it was important the focus was not only on who scored the most goals, but also on the sport’s position in society.

This was appropriate advice at the start of a day which later saw Gambiathrashed 11-0 by North Koreain the first match – ahead of the formal Opening Ceremony during which Jennifer Lopez sang a number which might have been dedicated to the poor Gambian girls, On the Floor.

= = = =