KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS —– FIFA president Sepp Blatter has laid bare the extent of Brazil’s World Cup failings, saying no host has ever been as far behind at this stage of preparation in all his 38 years at the world football federation.
Blatter joined FIFA as development director in 1975 and rose subsequently to general secretary and now president since 1998.
Hence his judgment stretches across nine finals tournaments including 1986 when Mexico had only three years to prepare (albeit for 24 teams), 2002 when co-hosts Japan and South Korea barely talked to each other and 2010 when South Africa’s entire event had to be built from scratch.
In an interview publishing in the Swiss 24 Heures, Blatter was asked whether host nations always understood the enormity of World Cup organisation.
He said: “No. Brazil has just found out what it means and has started work much too late. No country has been so far behind in preparations since I have been at FIFA even though it is the only host nation which has had so much time – seven years – in which to prepare.”
This is not the first time either Blatter or the FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke have taken issue with the dilatory approach of the Brazilian organisers though both have always expressed confidence that everything will be ready by the Opening Match in Sao Paulo in June.
The modern standard had been to award the World Cup to a country with five years to prepare. In fact Brazil was awarded the finals in October 2007, almost seven years ahead of time.
Half of the 12 World Cup stadia have yet to be delivered formally even though FIFA had set a deadline of December 31 last year.
The outstanding six are the Arena Corinthians (Sao Paulo), Arena da Baixada (Curitiba), Beira Rio (Porto Alegre), Arena Pantanal (Cuiaba), Arena das Dunas (Natal) and the Arena da Amazonia (Manaus).
A further cloud hanging over the World Cup is the prospect of a return of the street protests which marred the Confederations Cup warm-up tournament last June.
Blatter appealed, at the World Cup finals draw in Salvador last month, for “the population of Brazil, through this World Cup, to please come together.”
But he indicated in his weekend interview that he is resigned to more trouble on the streets of Brazil in June, though he does not believe the match staging will be targeted.
Blatter said: “I am an optimist not a pessimist. So I am not worried. But we do know there will be again be manifestations, protests. Those during the Confederations Cup – in this same country – were generated out of the social networks.
“There was no specific goal but during the World Cup the protests will perhaps be more concrete, more organised. But I also believe the football will be safe, I do not believe that Brazilians will attack the football directly. For them, it’s a religion.”
In a change of subject, Blatter was also asked the constantly reiterated question about whether he intended to stand again for the FIFA presidency in 2015.
He said: “I cannot answer with a Yes or a No but simply state that I do not feel tired enough to say that I will not stand.”
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