KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS —- FIFA president Sepp Blatter has impressed on the Turkish government what a perfect opportunity awaits to impress the sporting world with Istanbul’s bid to host the Olympic Games in 2020.
This opportunity is the World U-20 Youth Cup which Turkey will host next month – the first time a FIFA tournament has been staged in the country whose leaders wants to see Istanbul beat Madrid and Tokyo to land the Olympics.
Istanbul will take the lion’s share of the weight of the tournament. The city which spans Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus hosts no fewer than 11 matches: five in Group A, one in Group B, two in the second round, one quarter-final then both the third place match and the final on July 13.
Other matches will be staged in Bursa, Antalya, Kayseri, Gaziantep, Rize and Trabzon.
But for Istanbul to make the most the of the opportunity local fans will need to turn out in their thousands – even when the hosts are not playing – to create the sort of atmosphere which will reflect well on the city in the run-up to the Olympic decision in September.
Blatter underlined the point during a meeting today in Ankara with Prime Minister Recep Erdogan.
He said: “We trust Turkey will do everything which needs to be done to fill the stadiums. This is very important for FIFA as only full stadiums give the tournament the atmosphere it deserves.
“This is FIFA’s first competition in Turkey and we have very high expectations but we are confident it will be a great event. I encouraged the Prime Minister that Turkey uses the FIFA U-20 World Cup as an international showcase for Istanbul’s bid for the 2020 Olympic Games.
“The Prime Minister is aware and will support the Turkish Football Federation and the International Olympic Committee.”
Blatter, who also met Sports Minister Suat Kilic, was accompanied by FIFA’s director of member associations and development Thierry Regenass and senior officials of the TFF including president Yildirim Demiroren, FIFA exco member Senes Erzik and TFF vice-president as well as Servet Yardimci who is president of the Local Organising Committee.
Servet Yardimci said: “We are very happy to have the Prime Minister and our Sports Minister and the whole government including the mayors and governors of the seven host cities behind us.
“We gave our Prime Minister the confidence and our commitment to organise the best ever FIFA U-20 World Cup.
“At the same time we are more than prepared to show the best of Turkish hospitality to all visiting teams and their supporters. We hope it will be a big festival for Turkish football and for the world.”
The trophy tour stops in Rize to celebrate with the successful Rizespor team, who recently gained promotion to the Turkish top flight, before it goes to Trabzon (May 18-19), Bursa (May 25-26) and Istanbul (June 1-2).
Grassroots festivals have been taking place across the country, with another scheduled for Bursa on Friday this week and in Istanbul one week later.