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English FA ushers in 150th year, trying to shift focus from racism troubles and FIFA disputes

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The current England soccer team manager Roy Hodgson, left, greets one of his predecessors Fabio Capello at the launch of the English Football Association's150th anniversary year in central London Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013. The English FA was founded in London in October 1863, it was instrumental in forming the modern day game of soccer.(AP Photo/Alastair Grant)The Associated Press

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.