Monday, April 2, 2012

'We want actions, not words' - Blatter unhappy with Brazil's World Cup 2014 preparation progress

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has vented his frustration with the lack of progress in Brazil's preparations for the World Cup in 2014.

The head of the governing body for world football has been highly critical of the speed of progress in South America, with the construction of stadiums, transport infrastructure and hotels running behind schedule.
 The 76-year-old's comments come just weeks after Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke was criticised for stating that Brazil needed a "kick up the backside" to get everything ready on time.

On Thursday, Brazil's lower house passed the much-anticipated World Cup bill, but Blatter admitted that he has grown tired of the saga.

"At least the World Cup bill has been passed," Blatter is quoted by Globoesporte as saying.

"Now it is up to them. We want actions - not just more words."

Meanwhile, Valcke admitted that fans and members of the press may have to seek accommodation in cities close to where the matches will be held if hotel demands exceed the limits.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Fifa wants Teixeira replaced 'immediately'

Ricardo Teixeira. Photo By Reuters Image
Ricardo Teixeira must be replaced "immediately" on the Fifa executive committee by the South American confederation, football's world governing body said on Tuesday.
Teixeira resigned his Fifa seat for "personal reasons" without elaborating on Monday, one week after leaving as president of Brazil's football body and the 2014 World Cup organising committee, citing unspecified health problems.
Fifa said its statutes require the South American body, known as CONMEBOL, to move quickly.
"CONMEBOL will now have to decide immediately on the replacement of Ricardo Teixeira as one of their representatives on the Fifa executive committee for the remaining period of office," Fifa said in a statement.
Fifa's 24-member ruling panel chaired by president Sepp Blatter meets next week in Zurich, though the embattled Teixeira was not expected to attend.
Blatter's promised anti-corruption reforms are set to be high on the agenda, as the committee is due to receive a report from a panel of experts advising Fifa how to be more democratic, transparent and rigorous in its investigations.
The 64-year-old Teixeira skipped the previous meeting of Fifa's high command, held in Tokyo in December, when Blatter had hoped to publish a Swiss court document relating to a scandal involving million-dollar kickbacks from World Cup broadcasting deals in the 1990s.
Teixeira is widely reported to be implicated in the scandal, but publication of the dossier was delayed because of a legal process brought by unidentified parties before Switzerland's supreme court.
Teixeira had two years left in the elected post he held since 1994 representing the 10 South American football nations at Fifa.
CONMEBOL has three Fifa seats and traditionally elects one member from each of Brazil and Argentina.
It could send an interim replacement to Zurich for the March 29-30 session, until an election can be held.
Fifa's executive committee already has one interim member and a vacant seat.
Asia has sent Chinese official Zhang Jilong in place of its confederation president Mohamed bin Hammam, who was banned for life by Fifa in an election bribery scandal last year.
Bin Hammam can't be formally replaced until his appeal challenging the ban is decided by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The Qatari official will face Fifa in the Lausanne, Switzerland, court on April 18-19.
Fifa is also without a Caribbean delegate, as the CONCACAF confederation has not replaced disgraced former president Jack Warner who resigned all of his football duties last June to avoid investigation alongside Bin Hammam in the bribery scandal.
CONCACAF's 35 member countries are scheduled to elect a new president on May 23 in Budapest, ahead of the Fifa Congress in the Hungarian capital. The deadline for candidate nominations is Sunday.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Jerome Valcke suspended as FIFA's World Cup 2014 liaison to Brazil


FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke was suspended as 2014 World Cup liaison to Brazil after angering the country with his comments about its lack of preparation for the event, leaving FIFA President Joseph "Sepp" Blatter to pick up the pieces with President Dilma Rousseff and Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo.

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke was suspended as 2014 World Cup liaison to Brazil after angering the country with his comments about their lack of preparation for the event, reported Brazilian news site G1. FIFA President Joseph "Sepp" Blatter was left to pick up the pieces with President Dilma Rousseff and sports minister Aldo Rebelo when he visited both government officials today for a dinner welcoming him to the South American country. 

Valcke was suspended indefinitely from his post in Brazil, but still works for FIFA, Reuters Brasil reported. Blatter said Rousseff guaranteed Brazil would meet all the commitments it made to FIFA under her predecessor, Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva. 

"We came to the conclusion that we will work together hand in hand and we will be present the most extraordinary World Cup ever organized," Blatter said after a nearly two hour meeting with Rousseff, according to Agence France Presse. Rousseff added that she has "full confidence in Brazil's ability to organize this Cup." 

FIFA had expressed concern over delays by Brazilian Congress to approve a World Cup bill to regulate the international event and give FIFA financial and legal guarantees needed to organize the tournament, reported The Washington Post. The stumbling block in the bill is the sale of alcohol inside soccer stadiums, which is against Brazilian law. FIFA is demanding a change because Budweiser is a major World Cup sponsor, but the decision can only be made by Brazil's Congress.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Blatter 'very pleased' after World Cup 2014 meeting with Brazilian president


'Tensions between the game's governing body and the host nation had become strained after Jerome Valcke had claimed that the tournament organisers needed 'a kick up the backside'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has described himself as "very pleased" with the outcome of Friday's meeting with his Brazil counterpart Dilma Rousseff over the country's preparations for the 2014 World Cup.

There have been claims that construction work on the selected tournament stadia was behind schedule and that planned infrastructural improvements within the host cities might not be completed in time for the big kick-off.

Those reports led to Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke claiming that the organisers needed "a kick up the backside", but Blatter is in no doubt that the World Cup is in good hands after sitting down with President Rousseff in Brasilia.

"The idea now is the federal government works together with Fifa to strengthen these ties and that it is best not to wait so long for the next meeting, since the last meeting we had with President Dilma was last year.

"President Dilma stated that all of the necessary guarantees for the World Cup will be delivered to Fifa. We were very pleased with the outcome of the meeting."

Brazil last staged football's biggest event back in 1950.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Brazil, FIFA presidents to discuss 2014 World Cup

By Associated Press
SAO PAULO (AP) — FIFA head Sepp Blatter will meet Brazil’s president on Friday to settle differences over preparations for the 2014 World Cup.
Blatter will meet Dilma Rousseff in the capital Brasilia two weeks after FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke made harsh remarks over Brazil’s slow preparations, igniting a furor that impaired the relationship between the host country and soccer’s governing body.
Pele will join the talks, along with Brazil Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo.
Blatter asked for the meeting with Rousseff during his apology to Brazil, hoping the talk will help both sides focus on getting the country ready for the Confederations Cup next year and the World Cup in two years.
“We will discuss the status of preparations and what needs to be done over the next few months to achieve the common goal of FIFA and the Brazilian government,” Blatter said in a statement.
After Valcke’s remarks, Rebelo said Brazil was going to cut ties with the FIFA official in charge of working with the government in the World Cup preparations.
Rebelo later accepted apologies from Valcke, but the secretary general’s visit to inspect host cities in Brazil last week was canceled. It was unclear if Valcke would remain FIFA’s representative to work with the government. Rebelo said FIFA could make that choice.
FIFA said a decision on a new visit by Valcke would not be made until after Blatter met with Rousseff.
Also on the agenda Friday will likely be a controversial World Cup bill that is under consideration by Congress’ lower house.
The sticking point on the bill is the sale of alcohol inside stadiums, which is against the law in Brazil but is a demand by FIFA because Budweiser is a major World Cup sponsor. The bill was approved by a congressional commission last week, but the vote on the proposed law at the lower house was delayed Wednesday because congressmen remained divided on the alcohol text.
In addition to authorizing the sale of alcohol inside stadiums, the bill is important because it gives FIFA the necessary legal and financial guarantees to organize soccer’s showcase event.
Critics are against the proposed law because they say Brazil shouldn’t bow to FIFA’s demands. FIFA said the country agreed to change its legislation when it was picked as World Cup host in 2007.
Another talking point may be the resignation of Ricardo Teixeira, who was also the president of the local World Cup organizing committee.
Teixeira had been head of the Brazilian federation for 23 years, a period marked by success on and off the field but also by allegations of irregularities and corruption locally and abroad. Teixeira remains a member of FIFA’s executive committee.
Brazil admits there are delays in the World Cup preparations, especially in infrastructure work and in some stadium constructions, but officials guarantee that the country will be ready in time to host the competitions.
Despite apologizing for Valcke’s remarks, Blatter said “time is passing by” and both parties need to keep working hard to make sure Brazil is ready.
This week, a group of about 40 people from FIFA and the local organizing committee ended a seven-day trip to six of the 12 World Cup host cities. The inspection group checked local plans for traffic, security, fan management, commercial partners, marketing, hospitality and media.

Rio official: Increased security will be significant legacy of 2014 World Cup, 2016 Olympics

By Associate Press
DOHA, Qatar — A top Rio de Janeiro security official says the legacy of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics will be the peace and improved services that added security is bringing to the city’s long-deprived poor neighborhoods.
Jose Mariano Beltrame, secretary for public security in Rio, told a sports and security conference in Qatar that Rio’s three-year program has broken down barriers to slums that for decades were essentially cut off from prosperous parts of the city of 6 million people.

“We are changing the city, recovering the areas and also installing police into those areas,” Beltrame said. “Most importantly, it is not only the police presence. The police are doing the first intervention there. The police are creating possibility to include these people into normal life.”
In 2009, city officials launched a “pacification” program, in which security forces clear heavily armed gangs from slums and establish a police presence. The program in about 15 percent of the slums serving 280,000 people so far aims to reduce violence in Rio before the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games, and improve the lives of shanty town residents by bringing in basic services.
Beltrame said the project is already showing “quantitative results” including a drop in crime rates in the city. He said that funding for the program extends through 2014 and he was confident the gains would hold and result in a “permanent legacy.”
“If we don’t have this, we will have less public security,” Beltrame said. “The legacy we are creating has to start now.”
Drug factions began taking over slums in the 1980s, when the cocaine trade heated up. Lucrative drug sales led to the introduction of military-grade weapons, fueling deadly confrontations between the gangs and with the police.
The Rio state government over the years either ignored the slum violence or responded only when the killings spilled into Rio’s rich neighborhoods. The pacification program has been widely supported but raised questions over why it took so long for authorities to act. There are also questions over whether the program can actually reduce the drug trade.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Monday, March 12, 2012

FIFA team concludes visit to 2014 World Cup host cities in Brazil

SAO PAULO — FIFA has completed a visit to six of the 12 host cities of the 2014 World Cup.
A group of about 40 people from FIFA and the local organizing committee traveled to the northeastern city of Natal on Monday, the last stop in a seven-day trip across Brazil.

They also visited Sao Paulo, Porto Alegre, Curitiba, Cuiaba and the jungle city of Manaus. The other six host cities had been inspected last year.
The inspection group scrutinized local plans for dealing with traffic, security, fan management, commercial partners, marketing, hospitality and media.
Ricardo Trade, an executive director at the local organizing committee, says the visits are important to help organizers “evaluate several aspects” and improve planning for the World Cup.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Teixeira quits as head of Brazil CBF, 2014 World Cup

(Reuters) - Ricardo Teixeira, the controversial soccer boss who has headed the Brazilian Football Confederation for 22 years, quit on Monday following a string of corruption scandals.
Teixeira also resigned his role as the head of the local organising committee for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
He tendered his resignation in a letter that was read out to reporters at the headquarters of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF).
"I leave the presidency of the CBF definitively with the feeling of having done my duty," Teixeira said in the letter.
Teixeira, 64, said he was standing down for health reasons, just days after he requested a temporary medical leave of absence to treat diverticulitis, a painful bowel condition.
He is succeeded by Jose Maria Marin, 79, a former politician who is little known outside the closed world of the CBF.
Teixeira has run the CBF since 1989 and turned it into a vastly profitable commercial enterprise.
Brazil had not won the World Cup for 19 years when he took over but have since lifted it twice, in 1994 and 2002.
However, despite the successes on and off the field, Teixeira's tenure has frequently been overshadowed by allegations of corruption and shady business dealings.
In 2001, a Congressional investigation accused him of 13 crimes ranging from tax evasion to money laundering to misleading lawmakers, although no charges were ever brought.
Last year, the former head of the English Football Association David Triesman said Teixeira offered to back England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup in return for favours.
In February, the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper said a company linked to Teixeira overcharged the organisers of a November 2008 friendly match between Brazil and Portugal.
Teixeira has denied wrongdoing in all cases.
Teixeira's resignation means that Marin and two former footballers, Ronaldo and Bebeto, are now charged with organising one of sport's biggest events.
Ronaldo and Bebeto, both World Cup winners, were appointed to the committee in recent months despite having little experience in the field.
The tournament has been beset by delays and questions ever since Brazil won the right to host it in October 2007. Although most of the 12 stadiums are on schedule, several are over budget and being built with taxpayer money.
More worrying is the state of transportation infrastructure, especially airports.
Brazil's antiquated airports are not capable of handling the expected influx of 600,000 fans and authorities have been slow to build new airports and expand the existing ones. (Reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier and Andrew Downie; Editing by Todd Benson and Martyn Herman)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Armadillo will be mascot of 2014 World Cup in Brazil

SAO PAULO (AP) - Brazil's leading newsmagazine says the mascot of the 2014 World Cup will be an armadillo.
The official announcement is not expected until October, but Veja reported this weekend that organizers have already picked the animal as the mascot.
The Brazilian three-banded armadillo, which is in danger of extinction, rolls up into the shape of a ball when threatened. It is commonly found in north-eastern Brazil.
Organisers will name the mascot after public consultation.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Match schedule for 2014 FIFA World Cup™ unveiled

The Match Schedule for the 20th edition of the FIFA World Cup™ was announced in Zurich on 20 October 2011. The 64 matches will be played in 12 cities across the country. Sao Paulo will witness the Opening Match on 12 June 2014 while Rio de Janeiro will be the venue for the Final of the world’s most prestigious football tournament. The FIFA Executive Committee had confirmed in its meeting earlier the proposal by the Brazilian Organizing Committee.
Hosts Brazil will be seeded as A1 and will therefore play the opening match in Sao Paulo and the remaining two group matches in Fortaleza and Brasilia.
In addition, the kick-off times have been set as follows (all Brasilia local time):
Opening Match: 17.00
Group Stage matches: 13.00, 16.00, 19.00, 22.00
Round of 16/Quarter-finals: 13.00, 17.00
Semi-finals: 17.00
Match for Third Place: 17.00
Final: 16.00
Venues confirmed for the FIFA Confederations Cup 2013
Furthermore, the venues for the FIFA Confederations Cup 2013 have been announced. The champions of the six confederations as well as hosts Brazil and world champions Spain will participate in the Festival of Champions, which will be played between 15 and 30 June 2013. Currently, four host cities and four key matches have been confirmed, while the full match schedule to be confirmed in June 2012.
Five teams have already qualified for the tournament in 2013: the Asian champions Japan, CONCACAF Gold Cup winners Mexico, South American champions Uruguay, as well as Spain and Brazil.
Opening Match: Brasilia
Semi-final matches: Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza
Final: Rio de Janeiro
Approved Host Cities
Belo Horizonte
Rio de Janeiro
Conditionally approved Host Cities

FIFA 2014 World Cup Brazil Beer Battle

With the FIFA World Cup being scheduled for Brazil in 2014 it meant the country was asked to overturn it’s law on the ban of beer sales at its 12 host stadiums. There’s been a bitter battle brewing between Brazilian Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo and Frenchman Jerome Valcke, the secretary general of FIFA. They made the headlines in early March when Rebelo said Valcke wasn’t welcome in Brazil anymore after criticising the nation’s preparations for the tournament.
However, it looks like Brazil is backing down now since a vote by a special committee on March 6 resulted in a 15-9 result to allow beer to be sold at the stadiums during the event. FIFA desperately wants to sell the beverage since it will make millions of dollars from Budweiser, which is the official beer of the World Cup. If the law is changed, beer will also be on sale at the Confederations Cup in 2013, which is basically a trial run for the World Cup.
The final decision on the matter will take place in the Brazilian legislature and President Dilma Rousseff will have to approve it. Beer and alcohol sales were banned in Brazil in 2003 because of uncontrolled violence at many soccer games. But even without stadium drinking there has been at least 42 soccer-related deaths in the country over that time, which is the most in the world. Many citizens feel the death toll would be a lot higher if alcohol was added to the equation.
They also feel it’s FIFA’s problem since they knew drinking was outlawed at soccer games and still awarded the nation the World Cup. They insist public safety should come before FIFA profits. Valcke was called a bigmouth, bum, and colonialist by Marco Aurelio Garcia, who is President Rousseff’s special advisor on international affairs and Valcke apologised after Brazil said it wouldn’t deal with him anymore.
FIFA is in a bit of a jam since it promised Anheuser-Busch that it would be the official beer sponsor again, which it has been since 1986. In fact, FIFA said the company will sponsor beer sales at least up until the 2022 World Cup, mainly because soccer’s world governing body makes tens of millions of dollars due to the partnership. Basically the huge brewery has a monopoly on the event and the only beer available at the 2010 World cup in South Africa was Budweiser.
Sepp Blatter, the president of  FIFA, said he hopes to meet with Rousseff to sort the mess out. It won’t be the first time he’s had to intervene in Valcke’s business affairs with FIFA. Valcke engaged in shady dealings back in 2006 when he stiffed MasterCard as a sponsor and made a deal with Visa instead. FIFA was rightly fined a total of $60 million for that escapade by a New York court. In addition, Valcke also wrote an email to a former vice president of FIFA and stated that the nation of Qatar had “bought” the rights to the 2022 World Cup.
However, even of FIFA does get its way and Brazil allows them to sell beer, the soccer organization is going to have to go through the same thing again in 2018 when the World Cup will be held in Russia, and in 2022 in Qatar, since both of those nations also have beer bans in place. But as far as FIFA’s concerned, cold beer equals cold cash, no matter what laws are in place.

Experts Concerned About Brazil's Readiness

Venues in Brazil will be ready for the World Cup in 2014 but airports and public transport improvements may struggle to meet the deadline, experts said, as a Fifa team inspected progress.
"Brazil is now starting to prepare its airports but you need at least 10 years to have an airport network in the right condition," said Jose Roberto Bernasconi, president of the Sinaenco architecture and engineering union in Sao Paulo.
Brazil was awarded the World Cup in October 2007 but Bernasconi told AFP that "it was only in 2011 that we started to take things seriously".
Four million tourists are expected to come to Brazil in two years' time, as the South American giant hosts the tournament for the first time since 1950.
But concerns have been expressed about the country's ability to cope with a massive influx of visitors.
Airports are often dilapidated and overcrowded yet the government only awarded contracts to three private consortia in February to redevelop three airports: Guarulhos in Sao Paulo, Viracopos in Campinas and in the capital Brasilia.
In Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte, renovation work should be finished at the end of 2013.
Last Friday, Fifa secretary-general Jerome Valcke said Brazil needed to give itself "a kick up the backside" to make up for lost time in infrastructure work, sparking a blazing row with the government in Brasilia.
Since then, he and Fifa president Sepp Blatter have written to the Brazilian government to apologise. Valcke claimed that his remarks were given a much stronger meaning in Portuguese.
Some 40 experts from Fifa and the local organising committee on Tuesday began a six-day tour of six of the 12 cities that will host World Cup games in 2014.
Bernasconi, whose union is independently monitoring World Cup projects, said they were confident about the country's ability to host games.
"Certainly, the 12 stadia in Brazil will be ready for the World Cup, some of them just before the competition," he said.
"But other infrastructure work is slipping for the most part."
In particular, the union said that "few cities are actually doing work" to improve their urban transport systems.
The metro project in Salvador de Bahia in northeast Brazil has been gathering dust for the last 12 years while Recife also has yet to complete access to the stadium.
In Brasilia, construction of an overland metro system connecting the airport to the stadium has been on hold since April while in the southern city of Curitiba and northern Manaus, work has not even started.
The government however maintains that 42 of the 51 transport projects will be finished, as scheduled, next year.
In the hotel sector, Sao Paulo is the best prepared but big cities like Rio, Brasilia, Recife, Salvador and Belo Horizonte still have to increase their capacity. In Rio, 17 hotels have to be built between now and 2014.
Fifa has also been pushing lawmakers since 2007 for approval to allow beer to be drunk in venues but the dispensation has been constantly knocked back by parliament.
Sales of alcoholic beverages in sports arenas have been banned in Brazil since 2003 but the bill would create an exception, allowing beer to be sold in plastic cups at World Cup matches.
Fifa has an agreement with its sponsor, the US-based Anheuser-Busch brand Budweiser, and prohibiting beer sales would cut into the football organisation's revenues from the games.
Brazil legend Ronaldo, who is on the local organising committee, has admitted that there is some truth in Valcke's criticisms.
"Brazil said it would pass a law to govern the World Cup as long ago as 2007. There are delays in infrastructure work. There are already a lot of things delayed," he said.