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 dispute brought uncertainty over the country’s
preparations, but both sides are moving forward after apologies
from FIFA were accepted by the Brazilian government Thursday and
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 remains a
concern along with stadium construction problems in some
FIFA inspectors are visiting 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 questions raised
about whether Brazil would be able to host soccer’s premier event.
FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke sent a blunt, vulgar message
to Brazil on Friday about preparations.
Brazil Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo called the comment
”unacceptable, offensive and inappropriate” and told FIFA the
government would not deal with Valcke anymore. Valcke apologized
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
The letters didn’t explicitly say 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 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 must 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
soccer’s 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 Brazilian star
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
FIFA inspectors saw some of the problems close up 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 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 less than 40 percent of the
work has been completed.
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 decide in June whether they will 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
of apology. ”We have the common goal to organize an extraordinary
World Cup in the land of football.”
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