By Jeremy Walker
TOKYO (May 13)--Japan's venues for the 2002 World Cup will set
new standards in the history of the game, according to the head
of a FIFA inspection team.
Saudi Arabia's Abdullah Al Dabal was gushing with praise after
leading the team to Sapporo, Oita, Niigata and Kashima during
a four-day visit this week.
Al Dabal, who is an executive committee member of both the Asian
Football Confederation and FIFA, told reporters at a press conference
in Tokyo: "We are very deeply impressed by the work done, quantity
and quality wise, in the venues we have visited.
"We believe that the excellent infrastructure we have visited
in Korea and Japan will set new standards in the history of World
Cups to come."
The team, which also included Walter Gagg and Daniel Rupf from
FIFA HQ in Switzerland, visited six venues in Korea before arriving
in Japan last Sunday. Each country will use 10 stadiums for the
32-team, 64-match finals from June 1-30, 2002. All 10 in Korea
are under construction, while three in Japan have been completed:
The final venue of Yokohama International Stadium, Nagai at Osaka
and Miyagi in Sendai.
Al Dabal added: "We have seen so many stadiums and venues in
our sporting life but I would like to tell you that what we saw
in Korea and Japan is really very hard for any other country to
"As a member of the AFC, I would like to say how proud I am to
see such installations in Korea and Japan, and also to have been
assured by the federations and organising committees that the
20 stadiums will be a very dear and excellent present to the youth
of Asia after the World Cup."
Al Dabal said he was particularly impressed with the stadium
at Sapporo, where the pitch can be moved from under a dome protecting
it from the severe winter climate in Hokkaido to allow the grass
to grow naturally outside.
"This is technology in its latest version," he said.
Summing up the reception they had received in Japan, Al Dabal
concluded: "The amount of enthusiasm we saw from governors, mayors
and sports officials is a comforting sign that we will have everything
which FIFA asks for in the stadiums.
"It gives us the assurance that they (the stadiums) will meet
our requirements and be a landmark in World Cup history.
"We are very confi dent that the success of the 2002 World Cup
will be very attainable."
Al Dabal said further inspections were planned, and that he hoped
all stadiums would stage trial matches several months before the
World Cup kicked off.