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FIFA Monitoring Swine Flu Outbreak Before Confederations Cup in South Africa

The football world's governing body, FIFA, says it is closely monitoring the outbreak of swine flu weeks before the world's top regional teams travel to South Africa for the Confederations Cup. FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke also discussed preparations for the football World Cup to be held in South Africa next year.

Valcke said Wednesday the threat of a travel ban due to the outbreak of swine flu could pose a serious risk to the Cup, which is due to open in six weeks. "We are monitoring the situation and we hope that it would be under control before we have to think about when the teams are moving from South America to Africa, from North America to Africa, from Europe to Africa, etc," he said.

South African officials reported that two people who recently traveled to Mexico are suspected of having contracted swine flu. Mexico is believed to be the epicenter of the outbreak.

The South African government says it has opened emergency response centers in each of its nine provinces.

Valcke said the host nation's medical facilities were 100 percent prepared for the tournament. He said FIFA medical experts would meet this week in Switzerland on the outbreak.

FIFA was obliged to cancel a CONCACAF, or Confederation of North and Central Americas and the Caribbean Association Football tournament in Mexico because of the outbreak which has killed more than 150 people.

The winners of the six regional football cups and the 2006 World Cup are to head to South Africa in five weeks to join host South Africa's national team for the Confederations Cup. They include Italy, Spain, Brazil, Egypt, Iraq, New Zealand and the United States.

Valcke said the Confederations Cup would help preparations for next year's World Cup in South Africa which he said were going well. "There is no red light. There is still some work to do. But now we just have to do it. And it will happen," he said.

He said these tasks included ensuring that ticket sales went well, that playing fields were in top shape and that transportation systems and hotel rooms were able to service the estimated 400,000 fans expected to attend the Cup's 64 matches.

Valcke said South Africa's elections last week boosted FIFA's confidence in its ability to host the World Cup because of their efficiency and lack of violence.