|Delayed: Building work at the maracana stadium is to over|
run by a year. Photo: Reuters
Alarm bells are ringing over Brazil’s preparations for the 2014 World Cup. Plans have already been criticised by Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, and it emerged on Thursday that the Maracana stadium, which is to host the final, will require a new roof and may not be ready until 2013.
It was expected that the ground in Rio de Janeiro, which has not been used since last September because of renovation work, would be ready by the end of this year, but Ricardo Teixeira, the Brazilian football federation president, said the target now was the 2013 Confederations Cup.
The initial project was to keep the roof but Teixeira said “unexpected” problems had led engineers to conclude that it would be easier to install a new one than carry out repairs. The project will cost an estimated £400 million in total.
Blatter complained this week that “the World Cup is tomorrow and the Brazilians are thinking it’s the day after tomorrow”, as he compared Brazil’s state of readiness unfavourably with South Africa’s at a corresponding stage.
His comments follow a warning from Pele, who is expected to be an ambassador for the tournament, that the country “is running a huge risk of embarrassing itself in its handling of the World Cup. It has the obligation to host a successful World Cup.”
Misgivings were echoed by those assessing the technical side, with a report finding that most of the stadiums were behind schedule.
The reaction in Brazil has been mixed, with O Globo newspaper advising Fifa to “stay calm”. There are also suggestions that Blatter’s criticism needs to be viewed in the context of internal Fifa politics with Teixeira, a former Blatter ally, reportedly changing sides to vote for Mohammed Bin Hammam in the coming Fifa presidential election.
Orlando Silva, Brazil’s sport minister, said: “This is more a question of diverting attention from internal issues that involve Fifa than a realistic analysis of the work being done.”
But a consultant from the respected Fundacao Getulio Vargas institute, which has collaborated on the planning for World Cup 2014, acknowledged that “up until now it’s promising to be a mess. We need to move fast to work this out. But the first thing to do is to admit the problem exists.”
Another view is that the plan to stage the tournament in 12 cities was overblown. While some grounds are making encouraging progress, Fifa alarm has been triggered by the fact that work has yet to start in Natal and Sao Paulo.
The latter is planned to be the Corinthians stadium at Itaquera but there has been controversy both over the venue and the cost to transform the projected venue from a capacity of 45,000 to 65,000 as the stage for the opening game in June 2014. A sticking point has been facilitating extra funding.
It is widely believed in Brazil that problems over stadiums and other issues, such as security and transport infrastructure, can be pinned on the country’s Byzantine politics. Last year progress to 2014 appeared paralysed as the country went to the polls to replace President Lula. His successor, Dilma Rousseff, has reaffirmed the government’s commitment to the project but budgets cuts of around £20 billion are likely to have an effect.
Critics also blame the Brazilian FA and Teixeira for the problems, arguing that neglect of Brazil’s domestic football structure and personal ambitions are complicating preparations.
Juca Kfouri, a leading journalist, said: “The main problem is the lack of credibility of who is running the local organising committee. In France it was Platini. In Germany Beckenbauer. In Brazil it’s Ricardo Teixeira.”
Teixeira is also the centre of attention in Brazil’s Congress, where there are attempts to set up an inquiry into the handling of preparations for 2014 and the sale of television rights. Among the controversies are questions about where the profits from 2014 will go.
While Teixeira still has powerful allies, some feel complacency is still Brazil’s biggest problem.