SAO PAULO: FIFA president Sepp Blatter went over the heads of local politicians in appealing for the people of Brazil to help make the imminent World Cup a success.
Street protests highlighted public anger over the cost of hosting the World Cup and further demonstrations are expected during the finals which open in Sao Paulo next Friday with the Opening Match between Brazil and Croatia.
Blatter arrived in Brazil at the start of the week and moved on to Sao Paulo after meeting President Dilma Rousseff in Brasilia.
At his first press conference in the city after a meeting with the local organising committee, Blatter said: “I am sure that, when it’s time for the kickoff, all the country will respond to the football fever.”
“We are working with the federal, state and city governments to stage the best World Cup ever. But we also need the support of the people. This is important. I am confident that the atmosphere in this country is going to change.”
Blatter described football as more than a sport, rather a “social movement” and appealed for everyone to buy in. He did also acknowledge that positive results for Brazil’s own team could play a role.
José Maria Marin, president of both the Brazilian football confederation and the local organising committee of the World Cup, denied significant opposition to the hosting.
He said: “The majority of Brazilians are enthusiastic about the World Cup.”
Marion’s words were echoed by Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo who said: “This country needs a moment of peace and celebration. We will do everything possible to maintain security and encourage a welcoming reaction from all Brazilians.”
He appealed to foreign journalists and supporters to leave Brazil, after the finals, not weighed down by its inequalities but encouraged that it was working to correct its problems.
FIFA’s secretary-general Jerome Valcke, the world federation’s World Cup overseer, insisted that “everything is under control.”
He said”The general feeling is that we have done all we need. There’s nothing where we are at risk for any of the games which will take place in the first week of the competition.
“It’s true that if you go to Itaquera Stadium it looks like around the stadium there’s quite a lot of work still going on but I would say it’s quite normal, and it’s even more normal when some of the stadiums were late.”