Originally created 02/15/99

FIFA's Blatter repeats call for World Cup every two years



SAN FRANCISCO -- FIFA president Sepp Blatter repeated his call for the World Cup to be played every two years instead of four, but deflected questions Sunday about whether the Women's World Cup should follow a similar course.

Blatter, speaking at a news conference a few hours before the draw for this summer's Women's World Cup, said holding the men's event every two years would strengthen national teams.

With players frequently crossing national boundaries to play club soccer, Blatter said, the importance of the national teams is being diluted. Holding the World Cup more frequently could help address that problem, he added.

Blatter's suggestion has been attacked by many other soccer officials worldwide, but the head of FIFA -- the world governing body for soccer -- said new ideas should not be rejected just because they would lead to change.

"It's like when Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone," said Blatter, who plans to report to FIFA's executive committee on March 11-12 about the proposal. "People said, `We don't need it because we already have the telegraph.' "

When asked about the Women's World Cup also going to a two-year schedule, Blatter did not answer directly.

"I think it will be easier to have a Women's World Cup every two years than a men's World Cup every two years," he said with a laugh.

Blatter also said he favors experimenting with two referees in soccer matches, though only if such an experiment could take place over a full season. Trying it in only one competition would not be enough time to assess such a trial, he said.

The FIFA president pointed out that female referees will be used in the Women's World Cup, to be held in seven U.S. cities from June 19-July 10.

"I think women will pay more respect to their gender in the game," said Blatter, who added that more women's referees must be trained. "There will be so many women's matches in the future that we'll need the same number of women's officials as men's officials."