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Cup winners shine at FIFA Congress opening

Written by: Staff

MUNICH, June 7 (Reuters) A parade of 109 World Cup-winning players was the highlight of a glitzy showpiece welcome ceremony for the 56th FIFA Congress in Munich today.

Two days before the opening match of the World Cup finals between hosts Germany and Costa Rica at the nearby Allianz Arena, the sport's governing body revelled in the history and traditions of the tournament.

After formal opening speeches by FIFA president Sepp Blatter, Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, a series of presentations, dance shows and short films, the players took centre stage.

It was the first time so many surviving members of World Cup winning squads had been invited to such a ceremony by FIFA.

Each man was introduced on stage at the International Congress Centre and given a small golden replica of the World Cup trophy, a valuable prize for many of the players who were winners before all squad players were rewarded with medals.

The oldest player to appear on stage was Alcides Edgardo Ghiggia, who will be 80 in December. He scored the decisive Uruguay goal in a 2-1 win over hosts Brazil in 1950.

As expected the parade was dominated by Brazilians as they have won the World Cup five times. Their players on stage included Zito, Gilmar, Rivelino, Jairzinho and Dunga.

They were joined by a galaxy of former stars from other nations including England's 1966 centre-half Jack Charlton, West Germany's 1974 winner Rainer Bonhof, Mario Kempes of the 1978 Argentine side, Pierre Littbarski of West Germany's 1990 team and France's 1998 winner Emmanuel Petit.

Blatter presented FIFA Order of Merit medals to 13 people, including Japanese Football Association president Sabura Kawabuchi, USA 1994 World Cup chairman Alan Rothenberg and former FIFA president Joao Havelange of Brazil, who is now 90.

In his speech, Blatter urged the Congress, which meets to work through an agenda of reports and proposals tomorrow, to embrace change. ''Only through reform will we stay in form,'' he quipped.

Stoiber welcomed FIFA'S move towards greater social awareness and the formation of an ethics and social responsibility committee, while the Chancellor stressed the importance of football in uniting the world.

She said the World Cup slogan 'time to make friends' was being brought to life by the German people's hospitality and enthusiasm for an event that will be seen by billions of television viewers.

The Congress will on Thursday consider amending the FIFA Statutes to add an Ethics Committee to the two existing judiciary bodies after a proposal, from the Swiss Football Association, was approved unanimously by a meeting of the executive committee earlier this week.


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