Hodgson makes up with Manaus mayor
SAO PAULO (AP)
England coach Roy Hodgson seems to have made up with local officials in the Brazilian jungle city of Manaus.
Hodgson got into a public spat with Manaus' mayor before the World Cup draw in December, but both sides appeared to bury the hatchet on Thursday.
Hodgson wrote a letter expressing his enthusiasm about arriving in June, when city officials say they are planning a warm welcome for England.
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Hodgson said in a letter published by Amazonas state Gov. Omar Aziz on Thursday that he was ''looking forward to experiencing'' the city in what ''promises to be one of the highlights of the tournament'' for England.
Aziz said the city was planning a ''warm reception'' when Hodgson and his team arrive.
After Hodgson said in December that Manaus was the place to avoid during the World Cup, mayor Arthur Virgilio released a statement saying England would not be welcome.
Virgilio said at the time he was hoping to get ''a better team and a coach who is more sensible and polite,'' calling Hodgson ''one of the few people in the world who is not curious about the Amazon, who doesn't want to know Manaus.''
In a letter dated Jan. 17 and released on Thursday, Hodgson said ''we are extremely happy to be vising your city'' ahead of the team's World Cup opener against Italy on June 14.
''I am particularly keen to make contact with you following last year's media reports about the England v Italy match in Manaus,'' he wrote. ''I would like to put on record that I am looking forward to experiencing your city, learning about the culture and history and of course meeting the people!''
Hodgson said England was expected to spend a total of four nights in Manaus, including two before the match against Italy. He said he will be visiting the city next month ''on a fact-finding'' trip along with members of the English Football Association and the British ambassador to Brazil.
World Cup organizers in Manaus announced on Thursday that the Arena da Amazonia was 96 percent completed and its roofing structure will be finalized by the end of this week.
The stadium is one of the five still under construction less than five months before the World Cup opener between Brazil and Croatia on June 12. The Arena da Amazonia is expected to be inaugurated next month.