BRASILIA: Jerome Valcke is back in town: Six months after told he would be persona non grata FIFA’s secretary-general has been welcomed warmly on his latest visit to World Cup venues in Brazil writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Valcke visited the Amazon city of Manaus on Tuesday before flying on to the western city of Cuiaba. He will end his trip by attending a meeting of the board of local organizing committee on Thursday in Rio de Janeiro.

He said: “The visits are very important not only to see the stadiums and the general infrastructure progress but also to be able to discuss with the host cities and states representatives our joint mission, as they are providing the essential playing field for the teams and their fans.”

Former Brazil striker Ronaldo and sports ministry official Luis Fernandes, members of the local organizing committee, are accompanying Valcke who is FIFA’s chief progress-chaser – a role which has sometimes prompted words of frustration and impatience as with his early-year comment that the Brazilians needed “a kick up the backside.”

In Manaus, Valcke met local government officials and visit the 44,000-capacity Amazon Arena, which was 42 per cent completed by July, according to organizers. The stadium, which will host four group-stage matches, is expected to be ready by mid-2013. However, travel logistics continue to raise concerns about the most isolated of  the 12 venues in 2014 .

Valcke said: “We are leaving certain that if the work continues at this pace we won’t have to worry about not having the project completed in time. When Brazil was chosen as host it seemed obvious that Manaus would become a host city. It would be hard to imagine a World Cup without the Amazon involved. The Amazon belongs to the world and the world needs the Amazon.”

Cuiaba will also host four group matches in 2014. The 43,000-capacity Pantanal Arena was 46 per cent completed in July, according to local organizers. It is expected to be ready by the end of this year. Cuiaba is in the geographic centre of South America and is a popular tourist destination.

In October, Valcke is expected to visit the southern city of Porto Alegre and Rio de Janeiro, which will host the World Cup final at the Maracana Stadium. Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte and Curitiba are expected to be inspected by the end of the year.

Some of Brazil’s stadia must be ready to host the Confederations Cup next June. The draw takes place later this year in Sao Paulo.


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