2014 WORLD CUP

FOX Soccer Exclusive

World Cup future remains in doubt

FOX Soccer News: Sepp Blatter confident with World Cup preparations.
FOX Soccer News: Sepp Blatter confident with World Cup preparations.
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Jamie Trecker

Jamie Trecker is the Senior Editor for FOXSoccer.com. A working journalist for 25 years, he covers the Champions League, European soccer and the world game. Follow him on Twitter.

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RECIFE, BRAZIL

Postcards
Review Jamie Trecker's postcards during his Brazilian voyage this summer: No. 1 | No. 2 | No. 3 | No. 4 | No. 5 | No. 6 | No. 7 | No. 8 | No. 9 | No. 10

The Brazilian media is reporting Friday that the Confederations Cup is in danger of cancellation as the growing protests threaten the safety of the teams and the fans at this tournament. Brazil is experiencing the worst outbreak of civil disorder since the fall of the military dictatorship in 1985.

FIFA issued a strong denial that the tournament was to be cancelled, telling the Press Association agency that no such discussions had taken place. But behind the scenes, tensions are clearly rising, and it is inarguable that the games are a flashpoint.

The protests have coalesced around the Confederations Cup, which will conclude group stage play this weekend. On Thursday, police and protesters clashed in Salvador before the Spain-Tahiti game, with tear gas and rubber bullets being fired into the crowd. More protests are scheduled for every game, and there has been a formal warning issued for fans and visitors who are planning on attending the matches.

Protesters in Rio de Janeiro staged a public demonstration against Brazil's decision to host the 2014 World Cup (Photo: Nestor J. Beremblum/Getty Images).  

The movement hit new heights on Thursday, with an estimated one million people marching in Brazil’s streets. While Recife was largely peaceful, with only scattered reports of violence, the rest of this nation was plunged into turmoil.

Brasilia was hit by some of the worst violence and vandalism yet, as protesters smashed the window of the Foreign Ministry and set fires on the Congressional Mall. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowds as they again attempted to take the Congressional Building. Police reported that Molotov cocktails had been recovered.

To make matters worse, an 18-year-old student died in Sao Paulo after largely peaceful protests there were shattered when a man drove a Range Rover into the crowd. Local media reported that the man was angry over the protests. Twenty-nine people were injured in Rio de Janeiro as police fired rubber bullets into the crowds. Running battles between the protestors and the police spilled across the city. In total, ninety cities across Brazil saw its people in their streets.

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, a former Marxist rebel who fought against Brazil's 1964-85 military regime, had never held elected office before she became president in 2011 and remains clearly uncomfortable in the spotlight.

While Rousseff has stayed away from the public eye, Roberto Jaguaribe, the nation's ambassador to Britain, told news channel CNN Friday the government was first trying to contain the protests.

He labeled as ''very delicate'' the myriad demands emanating from protesters in the streets.

''One of our ministers who's dealing with these issues of civil society said that it would be presumptuous on our part to think we know what's taking place,'' Jaguaribe said. ''This is a very dynamic process. We're trying to figure out what's going on because who do we speak to, who are the leaders of the process?''

It is known that the teams participating in the Confederations Cup have expressed concerns over the situation. Spain has complained over the standards of accommodation and safety after six of members of the team were robbed at their hotel. Another, unidentified team, was reported in Friday’s newspapers to be pressuring their federation to pull out over safety concerns for their families attending the Confederations Cup.

Brazil’s team is in a difficult spot. They are clearly uncomfortable with the situation, but have sent mixed messages. Some players, including Hulk and Neymar, have come out with public statements cautiously supporting the protests while decrying the violence. Former great Pele, on the other hand, issued a statement asking for the protestors to stop, and instead focus on supporting their national team.

Most tone-deaf was FIFA’s Sepp Blatter. He issued a statement begging that football not be used “to make [their] demands heard.” This is breathtaking in its chutzpah considering that FIFA has used football to make a series of costly demands from this nation and its public coffers.

The protests have been galvanized by FIFA’s presence here, with reason: the Confederations Cup and the World Cup are expected to swallow up at least $15 billion with no end in sight and the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro expected to cost that city a whopping $20 billion.

DISCONNECT

If Brazil doesn't want to host the 2014 World Cup, why force them? FOX Soccer's Jamie Trecker explains.

The crowd’s chants and signs have stung the notoriously prickly hides of FIFA bigwigs. The crowds have asked for “FIFA standard hospitals and schools,” a dig at the expensive stadiums soccer’s governing body required Brazil to build for the Cups. The signs read: “first world stadiums, third world schools.” And Blatter was ferociously booed at the opening ceremonies.

Recife’s local newspaper, Diario de Pernambuco, devoted a centerspread to picture of the protesters and their grievances. More than half were dressed in the Brazilian national team colors and strips. Of the 24 people, half pointed to the perceived corruption around the World Cup, with one man saying simply, “It has been an excuse for an open hand [in the till] when the money is needed for the people.”

Should the Cup be cancelled, it would open up a series of difficult questions. Would Brazil be liable for failing to guarantee safety? Would the World Cup be taken away at this very late date? And could the Cup – which is a logistical nightmare, requiring at least 18 months advance preparation just for international television – even be staged at an alternate location?

These questions are being kicked around as the protests and the unrest churns on. Mass actions will take place in virtually every major Brazilian city. And the future – of this movement and the Cups – remains uncertain.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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