KEIR RADNEDGE reports from Rio de Janeiro
—- Sepp Blatter, despite a landscape of massive nationwide street protests, has hailed the finest Confederations Cup since the event was launched in 1992.
The president of world federation FIFA was speaking ahead of Sunday’s final here in Maracana between hosts Brazil and the world and European champions Spain: in effect, everyone’s ideal climax to the 2014 World Cup rehearsal.
Addressing the football specifically before reviewing the wider contest, Blatter said: “The football was the best Confederations Cup we have ever organised, the matches were very tense, attractive, even with the representatives of Oceania in Tahiti who are not on the same level as the others – but this is international football.
“It has also been a very fair competition. We have had no single direct red card and very few yellow cards and I would compliment the players and coaches for presenting such a spectacular competition so far.
“There was a lot of intensity, a lot of uncertainty and a lot goals – which people like.”
Blatter said he was also “particularly happy” – and also probably relieved, though he did not say so – with the event from an organisational point of view. Some minor problems had been reported back from Recife but “we have received only compliments from the eight delegations.”
FIFA has come under fire for its demands on the host nation, a perception which fuelled, if not triggered, the street protests over issues which ranged from bus fares to gay rights.
Blatter responded that he was not ignoring the tournament context. Indeed he believed that the Brazilian government would have no option but to respond positively to the protests. But this did not lie within his own remit; his specific concern lay with the Confederations and World Cups.
He said: “I can understand this social unrest. Absolutely I can understand it. But, on the other hand, football brings to the whole continent of Brazil emotions and hope. You have seen the reaction of the cabinet of government: they have promised to change something.
“This is not our problem but something will be changed and the FIFA World Cup will provide this platform where this can be delivered.
Trust and confidence
It’s a question of not only patience but of trust and confidence in the government of Brazil, trust and confidence in the local organising committee from the FIFA side . . . and we have shown this in some uncomfortable situations we have witnessed in these weeks and days.
“It has been a good competition and we are happy to be coming back here next year for the FIFA World Cup with 32 teams and 64 matches.”
Responding to a question about legacy, Blatter suggested Brazil might benefit as had South Africa in 2010 from a $100m legacy fund.
But he had no compunction about going ahead with the Confederations Cup despite speculation at one stage of an abandonment.
Blatter said: “We play in all the perturbed countries in our world and not only where there are belligerent situations such as Syria or Afghanistan. There is social unrest in Europe – in Portugal, in France, in Italy, in Spain, in Turkey, in Greece- and football is played there too.”
On technical issues Blatter noted that this was the first occasion on which an international federation has imposed a biological profile passport. Pre-event blood and urine tests on all players in the eight squads had been negative
Goal-line technology had also worked well even though it had been needed to decide any issues.
Blatter took an oblique swipe at UEFA president Michel Platini, an opponent of technology. He said: “To those who have taken a trumpet by saying why should we have goal-line technology if nothing happened then why we do we have fire brigades if there is no fire?”
The FIFA president also clarified an issue which had been misunderstood by some media outlets over his departure from Brazi lfor Turkeyafter the opening match at which both he and President Dilma Rousseff had been jeered.
He said: “At same time we started here one week later we had the Under-20 FIFA World Cup in Turkey and in Turkey we had the same unrest we have had here.
“Therefore it was the duty and responsibility of the FIFA president to be present at the Opening there together with Prime Minister Erdogan and then, after having done that, I was back for the semi-finals here.
“In no way could it be said I escaped my responsibility. In fact, I assumed two responsibilities at the same time.”
** Sunday’s Confederation Cup Final between Brazil and Spain will be refereed by Holland’s Bjorn Kuipers. The third place play-off between Italy and Uruguay will be refereed byAlgeria’s Djamel Haimoudi.