KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- An extraordinary intervention in the war of words over Brazil’s World Cup preparations has been registered by the executive director of the local organising committee.
For a senior official to claim, via social media, that World Cup monies had already been stolen would have been incendiary enough at a time when worried uncertainty reigns over the heat of street protests next month.
But fuel to the fire was added by the identity of the official concerned as none other than Joana Havelange, grand-daughter of former FIFA president Joao Havelange and daughter of disgraced ex-Brazilian football supremo Ricardo Teixeira.
Joao Havelange quit as honorary president of the world federation and Teixeira fled Brazil after revelations that they had received $13m – but probably much more = in illicit commissions from FIFA’s bankrupted former commercial partner ISL.
Teixeira was president of the Brazilian confederation, a member of FIFA’s executive committee and head of the World Cup’s LOC when he swapped football for life in exile in Miami – pursued by a vault-full of allegations over past and continuing profiteering.
Ronaldo, the ex-World Cup hero added to the LOC initially by Teixeira as a media-friendly lightning conductor, put his own foot in it at the start of the week. Brazil’s 2002 World Cup-winning top scorer had said he was “ashamed” of the delays which have blighted preparations for the finals.
World Cup critics attacked Ronaldo for missing the point – that the World Cup had eaten up money which should have been directed into social welfare.
Joana Havelange then joined in via Instagram, saying: “[I will not] wear black on any day of the games. I want the World Cup to go well. I will not jeer it, because whatever money has gone had been spent or stolen already.
“Any protests should have been much earlier. What I want the most is that whoever comes here sees a Brazil that knows how to be welcoming, to be friendly. Whoever comes here should want to return. I want to see Brazil at its most beautiful. My protest against the World Cup will be in the elections [later this year].
“Anyway, destroying what we have today will not change what needs to be done tomorrow. ”
Later she sought to excuse herself on the grounds of careless phraseology. Too late. By then state deputy Marcelo Freixo had demanded that Rio’s Ministry of Public Affairs investigate both the comment “because of who she is” and the allegations of misuse of public funds.
Hapless or not her words will continue to rebound – against the government, the organising committee and FIFA – amid an increasing torrent of allegations concerning Teixeira.
Most recently he has been targeted in a book O Lado Sujo do Futebol* [The Dirty Side of Football] by author Amaury Ribeiro Jr and TV reporters Luiz Carlos Azenha, Leandro Cipoloni and Tony Chastinet.
The book evolved from their programme research for TV Record which – to be clear – has no love for Havelange or Teixeira after having been shut out from all major football contracts by TV Globo for the last four decades.
Veteran football journalist Juca Kfouri has described it as “the book of the Cup” and suggested that its racy mixture would turn it into an international best-seller if ever published in English.
One of the most contentious chapters concerns the death in a car crash in Florida in 1995 of 23-year-old Adriane de Almeida Cabete. She was a friend of Lorice Sad Avuzaid, who worked closely with tourism boss Wágner José Abrahão, one of Teixeira’s most enduring business partners.
It was Kfouri, in Folha of Sao Paulo, who not only ‘broke’ the story of Adriane’s death but suggested later that her relationship with Teixeira had been a critical issue leading to the collapse of his 23-year marriage to Havelange’s daughter, Lucia . . . Joana’s mother.
At least there was good news for one high-profile woman in Brazil. President Dilma Rousseff has been ranked fourth most important woman in the world by Forbes.
** O Lado Sujo do Futebol [The Dirty Side of Football] by Amaury Ribeiro Jr, Leandro Cipoloni, Luiz Carlos and Tony Chastinet (Editora Planeta).