RIO DE JANEIRO: Jerome Valcke has swung from promoting the pragmatism of dictatorship to asserting the values of democracy writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
The secretary-general of world football federation FIFA displayed the breadth of his political philosophy while in Brazil on his latest progress-chasing mission ahead of next year’s World Cup finals.
FIFA, and Valcke in particular, have been exasperated all along by the Brazilians’ tardiness in preparing for the first World Cup in South America since Argentina in 1978.
Last year Valcke ascribed part of the problem to the time taken up in dealing with the three – federal, state and city – levels of Brazilian government. He said: “This means you need three meetings to make a decision instead of one meeting.”
That was when he suggested, in verbal shorthand, that a dictatorship was advantageous in terms of decision making clarity – not that he was advocating government by despot.
Ironically Valcke was speaking in a week when Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic delivery authority – created to shortcircuit such issues for the 2016 Games – is about to go down in flames.
FIFA and the Brazilian government were taken entirely by surprise in June by the street protests which exploded across Brazil during the Confederations Cup, the World Cup rehearsal.
Millions came out, largely peacefully, to express their anger at a perceived imbalance between the government’s spending on World Cup preparations and its social welfare provisions.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter and Valcke pointed out, at the time, that the previous government of President Lula had signed up to the all the guarantees demanded of a World Cup host.
However Valcke has now said that in his opinion FIFA might, in future, feel the need for a potential host nation to obtain the support of a parliamentary vote and/or national referendum to obviate a repeat.
He said: “Before Brazil’s hosting proposal was sent to FIFA, they could have voted in congress and that might be done in the future. Then it would be national support rather than just a bid sent by a federation with government guarantees.
“You would have at least the official approval from a majority of the political parties which are the representatives of the country’s population.”
This is not an immediate issue. The World Cups for 2018 and 2022 have already been assigned to Russia and Qatar respectively so the next uncharted World Cup will be only in 2026.
In the meantime Valcke, while anticipating more protests during next year’s finals, pointed out also that Brazilians had led the rush when tickets sales began this week.
He said: “Brazil loves football and support football. Of course I know that the World Cup is a platform for demonstrations but the majority of Brazilians will gather at the fan fests and public exhibition events.
“If we have the same success of the Confederations Cup multiplied by what a World Cup represents, it will be a great World Cup.”