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Social networks get put to sports use

June 18,2010
JOHANNESBURG - As the globe’s top footballers try to rewrite World Cup history in South Africa, the tournament has also become ground zero for the latest explosion of Twitter and other social network services.

“Welcome to my Twitter page! Follow me during the 2010 FIFA World Cup - I can’t wait for the opening game tomorrow,” Sepp Blatter, FIFA president, announced in his first tweet a week ago.

Twitter allows users to send out messages no longer than 140 characters over the Internet through computers and mobile devices that are picked up by “followers” who subscribe.

Blatter (http://twitter.com/seppblatter) had gathered 24,400 followers as of yesterday evening and “twittered” with some 21,000 people in the first few days after he activated the account, according to FIFA.

In an e-mail to Yonhap News Agency, FIFA said Blatter “acknowledges the importance of social media and also the opportunity to directly talk with people interested in FIFA’s work.”

Blatter “personally chooses” what to post on his Twitter account and the content is later uploaded by his staffers, the football body said.

FIFA itself is also running accounts to disperse real-time match information, including half-time results and goal flashes, in more than 10 languages on Twitter as well as on Facebook, used by many millions worldwide.

Players are also “tweeting” at the World Cup, although some teams have forbidden players from uploading their thoughts in order to enhance discipline and restrict information on team tactics.

Bert van Marwijk, the coach of the team from the Netherlands, banned his players from using Twitter after winger Eljero Elia appeared to insult Moroccans in a live video stream of himself and teammate Ryan Babel.

“I love you,” Brazil’s star midfielder Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, known as Kaka, recently wrote to his wife on a Twitter account, while Argentine footballer Sergio Aguero tweeted about his homesickness.

Taking note of its increasing popularity in relaying World Cup information, Twitter itself is also focusing on the most widely viewed sporting event in the world through its Web site at http://twitter.com/worldcup/home.

Fans in South Africa and throughout the world are also uploading real-time comments and reactions on Twitter and Facebook while watching the matches.

“Jong Tae-se’s face is very sad, stop crying,” a South Korean Twitter user under the handle @daveryu wrote after seeing the tears of the North Korean striker during the national anthem before the North Korea-Brazil match Wednesday. Yonhap



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