The English Football Association kicked off its 150th anniversary celebrations Wednesday, striving to shift the focus from the domestic and international troubles that have afflicted the country in recent years.

The Premier League's reputation has been diminished by racial abuse cases involving fans and high-profile players, while the FA has endured a fraught relationship within FIFA as the world's oldest soccer federation's influence has declined.

But leading world soccer figures united in London on Wednesday to launch the FA's landmark year, with FIFA President Sepp Blatter telling the audience by video that "it is called the FA, because it is the No. 1 in FIFA."

Blatter's warm words were a far cry from 2010, when he decried English "arrogance" following its failed bid for the 2010 World Cup.