World Cup

Valcke upbeat over WC preparations

Plan to protect Qatar World Cup workers unveiled
Plan to protect Qatar World Cup workers unveiled
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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 on 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.

Valcke said the Brazilian government and officials in Curitiba and the state of Parana 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.

Brazil has finished only seven of its 12 cup stadiums even though the country 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 is returning to Brazil on Sunday to inspect three host cities, including Manaus, which last week reported the third death of a worker in less than a year. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Friday is expected to visit the construction site of the Arena da Amazonia, one of the five stadiums yet to be finished.

Valcke, FIFA's top official in charge of the World Cup, said ''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.''

But clearly the biggest concern for FIFA with four months to go remains the stadium construction in Curitiba, where local organizers depend on the approval of a loan from a federal government bank. 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.

After visiting Manaus, the southern city of Porto Alegre and the nation's capital of Brasilia, Valcke will attend a team workshop with representatives of all 32 cup teams in the southern city of Florianopolis next week.

His visit ends with a board meeting of the cup organizing committee on Feb. 21, also in Florianopolis.

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