- Associated Press - Thursday, May 7, 2015

ZURICH (AP) - Describing himself as a “godfather” to women’s soccer at FIFA, Sepp Blatter has acknowledged its appeal still trails that of the men’s game.

FIFA’s president said in BBC World Service radio in an interview broadcast Thursday that the Women’s World Cup in Canada, which opens June 6, can be a “market opener.”

Blatter challenged the teams in the expanded 24-nation tournament to help achieve that breakthrough by putting on a high-quality show.

“Women’s football must market itself. It’s a product, and the product must have quality,” he said. “Now it’s up to the ladies in this World Cup to show that it’s a great event because the television coverage will be done exactly like the FIFA World Cup.”

He recalled that FIFA started focusing on women’s soccer in 1988, when he was general secretary. The first Women’s World Cup was in 1991.

“I consider myself a little bit as a godfather of the organization of women’s football in FIFA,” Blatter said, while accepting that “there is still a lot to do.”

“Women’s football is still limping a little bit behind,” said Blatter, who in 2004 suggested players could wear tighter shorts to help market their game. “Men’s football should share with women’s football to get new partners for women’s football. It is not easy because the market is focused on men’s football.”

Blatter did not directly address his pursuit of a fifth term in office to extend his 17-year presidential reign. FIFA’s members vote May 29.

He did promise to attend the women’s tournament, whatever the election result. The women’s tournament expanded from 16 teams to 24 this year - eight fewer than the men’s World Cup.

“I am very eager to know if 24 teams is the right number,” he said. “I am sure it is the right number, but it has to be confirmed by the quality of the teams participating.”

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