FIFA president Sepp Blatter has defended the 2010 World Cup from criticism over empty seats and poor refereeing standards.
The head of world football’s governing body also claimed he was not surprised by the poor showing by African countries.
Instead, the 74-year-old believes the decision by Ivory Coast and Nigeria to change coaches just months before the tournament made it very tough for them to make an impact.
“You cannot manage a national team when you coach two or three months before the competition and this has happened in two of the associations, Ivory Coast and Nigeria,” Blatter said.
“And therefore it would have been a miracle if they went through.”
Refereeing mistakes have been highlighted at the tournament, most notably when Frank Lampard’s shot in the quarter-final defeat to Germany clearly crossed the line but a goal was not given.
“We are bound by the best referees we have,” Blatter said. “We tried to get them on top but naturally referees are human beings and they commit errors like everybody.”
On the empty seats, Blatter added: “Empty seats yes but not empty stadia. Don’t forget 95% of all tickets have been sold.
“Not everybody came to the stadia. If you have seen in some of the stadia empty seats it came from hospitality, and we know hospitality does not work as we have expected because there is not the same enthusiasm as there has been for hospitality seats in other World Cups.”
Blatter also claimed fans had embraced the vuvuzela, which has divided opinion.
“We’ve survived the vuvuzelas, everybody has survived the vuvuzelas,” he said. “I don’t think we can just take them away.
“This is not only the African way, because all the visitors coming here have started to buy the vuvuzelas and in the final there will be not even 50% African people in the stadium but everybody will have a vuvuzela.”
Blatter said it was not possible to judge this World Cup in comparison to others, but described it as “special”.
He said: “It was a World Cup on a new continent with a new culture and therefore it must be analysed on different levels, but if you look at the enthusiasm in Africa and also the repercussion in the world, if you look to the television audiences around the world, if you look to the fan-fests everywhere in the world then I have to say it was a special World Cup.
“All these fan-fests were not only because it was football but specifically because it comes from Africa. I cannot make a ranking of the World Cup but it was a very attractive World Cup and for me it was also a very emotional World Cup.”
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