Soccer

Valcke: Solution sought for Curitiba stadium delay

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SAO PAULO (AP)

FIFA and Brazilian organizers are doing everything possible to keep the southern city of Curitiba in the World Cup despite a significant delay in stadium construction, FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke said Friday.

Valcke said those involved in the city's preparations ''are seeking and finding solutions to help them catch up and hopefully make sure'' the stadium will be ready to host its four matches in the World Cup.

''We will communicate the final decision to the teams as promised (next week),'' Valcke said in his latest FIFA column.

FIFA gave an ultimatum to local organizers last month, saying they have until Tuesday to show the work at Arena da Baixada can be finished in time.

The secretary general may have a new reason for concern when he arrives in Brazil for an inspection tour this weekend. The president of the Brazilian club in charge of the Beira-Rio stadium in the southern host city of Porto Alegre said Friday there is a risk the venue can't be used in the World Cup because of a dispute over who will pay for the temporary facilities required by FIFA outside the venues.

''It's a complex negotiation,'' Internacional President Giovanni Luigi told Brazilian media. ''If the problem is not solved, there is a risk we are dropped from the World Cup, and it's not a small risk.''

Luigi is pressuring the local government to share the nearly $13 million that will be needed to build the facilities. He said the club alone should not be responsible for the cost, but local officials don't want the government to get involved.

The dispute should be discussed when Valcke arrives in the city for an inspection visit on Monday. The first test event at the nearly ready Beira-Rio is scheduled for Saturday.

Brazil has finished only seven of its 12 cup stadiums even though it promised all venues would be ready by the end of last year.

''None of the 12 cities can afford to sit back and relax,'' Valcke said. ''There's still plenty of fine-tuning to be done.''

Valcke will also stop by the nation's capital of Brasilia and the jungle city of Manaus, which last week reported the third death of a worker in less than a year. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Friday visited the construction site of the Arena da Amazonia, one of the five stadiums yet to be finished.

Valcke will not visit Curitiba, which clearly is the biggest concern for FIFA with four months to go for the World Cup. Local organizers are depending on the approval of a loan from a federal government bank to finish the stadium construction in time. Organizers said they have already increased the number of workers at the venue and improved the pace of construction, which were among FIFA's demands to keep the city in the tournament.

Valcke said the Brazilian government and local officials are working with FIFA and the local World Cup organizing committee to make sure ''a special city in terms of sustainability and passion for football will remain part of the FIFA World Cup lineup.''

Local authorities insist they have complied with all requests made by FIFA and guaranteed the stadium will be finished in time for the cup in June.

Valcke, FIFA's top official in charge of the World Cup, said in his column that ''safety and security'' will not be compromised for any reason and will remain a ''top priority.'' He also said getting the pitches ready will be crucial.

''In particular, the pitches must be in top condition when FIFA takes over the stadiums 21 days prior to the first match in the venues,'' Valcke said. ''This is vital as we want to see the best performances by the players and this requires optimum pitch conditions over the 64 matches.''

After visiting the three host cities next week, Valcke will attend a team workshop with representatives of all 32 cup teams in the southern city of Florianopolis. His visit ends with a board meeting of the cup organizing committee on Feb. 21, also in Florianopolis.

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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