KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING
— Jerome Valcke has cautioned World Cup watchers against trying to compare Brazil’s preparations and staging of the 2014 finals with South Africa 2010.
For the sake of diplomatic relations, FIFA’s secretary-general will not claim the credit for his “kick up the backside” comment last spring. FIFA observers, however, drew precisely that conclusion from the words and efforts clear last weekend during events in and around the draw in Sao Paulo for next year’s Confederations Cup.
Valcke and FIFA president Sepp Blatter held high-level talks in Brazil at the end of last week with state President Dilma Rousseff, senior government officials and governors and mayors of all the 12 scheduled venue cities.
At one stage during the past 18 months Blatter had commented that Brazil was not as far advanced as South Africa had been, approaching the Confederations Cup and the World Cup itself.
But Valcke, having also ruffled feathers but achieving desired results with his “kick up the backside” outburst, feels more reassured now that Brazil is on track to fulfil the minimum demands of a host nation.
Asked to compare 2010 with 2014, he said: “It’s always difficult to compare two World Cups. We have a few challenges in Brazil we didn’t have in South Africa and the main one is the size of the country.
“In South Africa, for example, it was easy to back the media from wherever they were located [for a match] to their base camp . . . they could travel back ‘home’ by car or bus or train. In Brazil there is only flying. That’s the difference.”
After uncertainty over venues for next summer’s Confederations Cup – particularly concerning Recife – Valcke is confident now that “we will have the six [chosen] stadia. The question is more now to make sure that we test what can be tested during the Confederations Cup and not try to think we will have a real rehearsal of the World Cup: this will not be the case.
“So I will not compare the two, just to say it’s two different countries – and then Russia will also be very different again from Brazil.”
Initially FIFA and the Brazilian organisers had talked of more than 50 infrastructure projects being undertaken however Valcke has clarified that not all of these are essential for the football tournaments.
He said: “There are projects where, if they are not 100pc dedicated to the World Cup, they can be removed from the list which we agreed from day one.
“If there is a part of a project that’s important for us then that should be a priority of the government and local authorities but the remaining part of the project can be done later.
“Maybe there was a misunderstanding when, at the beginning, more than 50 projects were announced. These 50 were not all related to the World Cup. One third of them are definitely important for us as regards the organisation so those are the ones we are focusing on.
“It was a 10-year plan [overall] and the World Cup is just half of the way for them so the final changes – within the country and the host cities – will not be completed until years after the World Cup.”
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