Football boasts the world’s biggest sporting family with 260 million participants which tips over one billion when including immediate relatives.
That is one sixth of the world’s population. The daddy of this vast disparate family is Joseph ‘Sepp’ Blatter, FIFA president and one of the sporting world’s most influential figures.
Blatter was here for the opening of the Centre of Excellence last Thursday and then the Ritz-Carlton benefit dinner the following night.
All went smoothly and the 73-year-old Swiss breezed out in his private jet soon after the dinner, happy in the knowledge that Cayman is quickly establishing itself as a mini-powerhouse.
Credit goes to Cayman Islands Football Association president Jeffrey Webb who has for the past 18 years struggled to raise the standards and regional respect Cayman has. New Minister of Sport Mark Scotland contributed immensely too.
Well, it doesn’t come better than a Blatter visit. He was accompanied by other heavy hitting FIFA officials Jack Warner, Captain Horace Burrell and Geoffrey Thompson.
Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish also attended. He had the audience roaring when comparing his native Scotland in the same breadth as Brazil and Argentina. He also raised a laugh when talking about coming here to relax and grow a beard but having to attend too many formal functions to get the chance to.
Webb made an impassioned speech about how he has fought tooth and nail to establish Cayman’s identity on the global landscape.
He is also heavily respected in FIFA circles as acting chairman of the internal audit committee.
Webb recalled how Warner openly wept in 2005 when the Cayman official made his first FIFA audit report because it was the first time in the organisation’s 101 year history that a black man had been bestowed with such a responsibility.
Blatter has many critics but at least he deserves credit for that.
Blatter closed a great show by saying he was off to the Federation Cup in South Africa which is effectively a warm up tournament for the big one next year.
‘Cayman has not qualified for the World Cup, USA is your main representative from this region, but I’m sure that one day you will make it,’ he said graciously.
‘We can help. I’m criticised by the rich countries who don’t want to see me helping the little ones. But that does not matter. Football is solidarity. It is easy to speak but not so easy to do.
‘I’m still the development officer in FIFA and will continue. Thanks for the gifts, especially the Caymanite.
‘Ignore the negatives, Cayman. Team work is important. The Under-17 girls are wonderful. If you play as good as you look, you will be champions in the future.
‘CIFA-FIFA. FIFA-CIFA. There is no difference. Enjoy the game but most importantly, enjoy life.’