After spat, Brazil and FIFA try to get to work

Brazil and FIFA have put their rift behind them. Now it’s time

to get to work.

A public war of words brought uncertainty over the country’s

preparations, but both sides are moving forward after apologies

from FIFA were formally accepted by the Brazilian government on

Thursday and the approval of a key bill in Brazil’s Congress.

With two years to go until the World Cup and just more than a

year before the Confederations Cup, infrastructure work remains a

concern and there are problems with stadium construction in some

cities.

FIFA inspectors are in the country for a key visit to host

cities, checking on progress and working closely with local

governments. The team of nearly 40 people from FIFA and the local

organizing committee were in the southern city of Curitiba on

Thursday.

Things looked bleak only a few days ago, with queries whether

Brazil would be able to host the tournament.

It all started after FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke sent a

blunt message to Brazil on Friday about preparations: ”You have to

push yourself, kick your (backside).”

Brazil Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo reacted quickly, saying the

comments were ”unacceptable, offensive and inappropriate” and

telling FIFA that the government would not deal with Valcke

anymore.

Valcke apologized on Monday, as did FIFA President Sepp Blatter

on Tuesday.

On Thursday, the Sports Ministry said in an emailed statement

that Rebelo had sent letters to Blatter and Valcke indicating he

had accepted their apologies.

The statement said Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff would meet

with Blatter, but didn’t indicate when.

The letters didn’t explicitly say that Brazil was withdrawing

its request to no longer work with Valcke. The ministry said the

matter would likely be resolved after Rousseff met with Blatter,

probably next week in Brasilia.

A key sticking point between FIFA and the Brazilian government

had been the delay by a congressional commission passing a bill

about organizing the World Cup, accepting several demands by FIFA

and giving it financial and legal guarantees in controlling the

event.

The bill still has to go through both chambers of Congress

before reaching Rousseff. But it was a big victory for FIFA and the

government, which was under pressure from local critics who say

football’s world governing body has been granted too much

power.

Valcke’s comments infuriated many Brazilians, but there were

those who didn’t think he was too far off. Former player Ronaldo, a

member of the local organizing committee, agreed with him that the

preparations are running late. Romario, another former star turned

congressman, concurred.

”It was unfortunate but it doesn’t mean he was wrong,” Ronaldo

said. ”Brazil promised to deliver the World Cup bill, promised to

deliver the infrastructure projects, but there is still a lot that

hasn’t been done.”

Valcke also said that ”things are not working in Brazil” and

”not a lot is moving” with stadium building and infrastructure

renovation.

FIFA inspectors saw some of the problems close up on Wednesday

when they visited Beira-Rio stadium, which is expected to host five

World Cup matches.

The inspectors found an empty construction site at the venue in

southern Brazil because a lack of financial guarantees to renovate

the stadium halted work eight months ago. Local officials told FIFA

the problem is expected to be solved by next week, but if the

indecision continues for much longer Porto Alegre may have to rush

to find a new venue to avoid being dropped as a host city.

”We have total confidence that the stadium will be delivered on

schedule on Dec. 31, 2013,” said Ricardo Trade, an executive

director at the local organizing committee. ”Porto Alegre is at

the same stage as other cities.”

The Brazilian government guarantees that construction in most

stadiums is on track, but acknowledges there are delays in Cuiaba

and the jungle city of Manaus, where only 38 percent of the work

has been completed so far.

Rebelo also said that more than 40 of the 51 infrastructure

projects planned for the World Cup in the 12 host cities will be

completed in 2013, but it’s clear many won’t be ready in time for

the Confederations Cup.

”The minister is already being more pro-active in his

management of the work needed for the World Cup,” said Jose

Roberto Bernasconi, president of a Brazilian association of

architectural and consulting engineering companies.

”It seems he is fully dedicating himself to making sure the

local governments pick up the pace where needed. Some projects are

not being conducted at the most adequate pace. Some will be ready

in time but some won’t.”

It remains unclear if the northeastern cities of Recife and

Salvador will be ready in time to host the Confederations Cup. FIFA

will make a decision in June on whether they’ll join Rio de

Janeiro, Brasilia, Belo Horizonte and Fortaleza for the

tournament.

The FIFA inspectors are making comprehensive visits to six host

cities this week, checking on areas dealing with traffic, security,

fan management, commercial partners, marketing, hospitality and

media. Last year, the inspection team visited the other six cities.

The FIFA team travels to Cuiaba on Friday, Manaus on Saturday and

Natal on Monday.

”We should and must work together,” Blatter said in his letter

apologizing to Brazil on Tuesday. ”We have the common goal to

organize an extraordinary World Cup in the land of football.”

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