KEIR RADNEDGE in Surrey: The war of words over the 2014 World Cup has been ramped by a sharp exchange between Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo and FIFA’s secretary-general Jerome Valcke.
On Friday, as he arrived in London for the International Board annual meeting, Valcke had let rip with his increasing impatience at the Brazilians’ failure to display any sense of urgency in their preparations for the finals.
Infrastructure redevelopment is way behind time while the contentious World Cup Bill, which provides the legal framework for the event, has yet to receive Congress and Senate approval.
Valcke had commented that the Brazilians needed “a kick up the backside.” A furious Rebelo responded by saying that Brazil would no longer deal with Valcke – who is FIFA’s World Cup boss – and who is next due in the country to review preparations on Monday week.
Rebelo said in a statement that Valcke’s comments were “unacceptable” and “careless” and inaccurate considering progress now being made on stadia and other infrastructure projects.
He added: “The Brazilian government can no longer deal with the Secretary General as an interlocutor. Dialogue cannot take place through someone who makes careless, hasty statements of this nature. I will officially communicate this decision to the FIFA President Joseph Blatter.
“We need an interlocutor who is able to understand the level of responsibilities and understanding necessary for this type of relationship. The government has been putting a lot of effort in, and will continue to support the World Cup. But as far as the government is concerned, the Secretary General can no longer be our interlocutor.”
According to Rebelo, as well as being inappropriate, Valcke’s statements were incompatible with FIFA’s stated impressions after a delegation’s visit to Brazil in January and did not match the facts.
He added: “FIFA’s secretary-general can see onsite how the construction work is going. Not just the work at the stadiums, but the infrastructure projects, as well. He made compliments in an article published by FIFA at the time. The head of FIFA engineering acknowledged the excellence of the construction at the stadia.”
Progress was finally being made, Rebelo insisted, on the World Cup Bill, on which the National Congress is expected to vote on Tuesday during the Special Commission of the Brazilian House of Representatives.
He said: “The government has been endeavoring, although this is a responsibility of the National Congress, to approve the World Cup General Bill within a reasonable timeframe, so that everything that has been agreed may be complied with.”
Earlier Rebelo had said: “The government can no longer accept this secretary-general as a representative. We need a representative who has the ability to understand the level of responsibilities required for this type of relationship. I am going to tell the president of FIFA of this decision.
“We have always had a cordial attitude toward everyone from FIFA here in Brazil. We can’t accept to hear such an offensive comment. He (Valcke) can’t say something like that about a country. It’s unacceptable.”
Valcke, today, was unimpressed. In response, he said: “I’m fine if that’s a problem – because nothing has happened. Because I have made one comment saying things are not working, if the result is they don’t want to work with me that’s puerile.”
He remained as critical as ever of the state of play in Brazil and particularly concerning the parliamentary stand-off.
Valcke said: “Firstly this World Cup Bill should have been passed in 2007 when Brazil got the World Cup because it was part of the guarantees given by the government of President Lula in return for being awarded the World Cup.
“We have compromised on a number of things such as ticket price discounts for elderly people and a number of things on the wording of these guarantees but some are key: there is no way we cannot receive a guarantee on security because action against terrorism is a responsibility of the state: we have no leverage on this so this World Cup Bill has to pass.
“The question is also ‘what’ it will be: the text is changed ever day, every minute. I don’t know when the next meeting take place but it has to finish. The World Cup Bill has an impact across all of the Brazilian federal states.
“If we don’t get this Bill? That’s not an option.”
Valcke talked around questions about his opinion of controversial Brazilian football supremo Ricardo Teixeira, saying: “Confidence has been shown in him by the 27 regions of the Brazil football confederation so I am just working with the people in charge.
“It’s not my role to say I don’t want to work with this person.”
Sports Minister Rebelo, clearly, has a different view.
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