Blatter Meets Brazil's Rousseff to Avert World Cup Crisis
March 16 (Bloomberg) -- FIFA President Sepp Blatter said he trusts the Brazilian government will follow through on pledges as host of the 2014 World Cup following a specially-arranged meeting with the country's president today.
Blatter traveled to Brasilia in a bid to get preparations for the World Cup back on track and reduce tensions with the host nation that reached a peak this month when President Dilma Rousseff's government cut ties with FIFA's highest ranking administrator. Soccer's governing body has grown frustrated at Brazil's failure to pass a special law, which confirms guarantees made to FIFA when the country was awarded hosting rights in 2007.
"Dilma told me the government will provide all necessary guarantees and we fully trust her and Brazil's government that this will happen," Blatter told reporters in Brasilia. "The idea now is that FIFA and Brazil work more closely" in preparing for the event, he said.
FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke said on March 2 that Brazil needed a "kick up the ass" to be ready in time, an outburst that prompted Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo to request he be removed as soccer governing body's emissary.
"The issue between Brazil and Valcke belongs to FIFA and we'll have to solve it," Blatter said.
It's not the first time FIFA has been critical of a host nation before a World Cup. South Africa, which staged the last tournament in 2010, faced many of the same accusations about the lack of progress in completing infrastructure projects like airports and stadiums and concerns over striking workers. That event went ahead as planned without any major problems.
Time to reflect
"There comes a time in the organization when it's time to reflect and reorganize," World Cup 2010's former chief executive officer Danny Jordaan said in an interview. "I'm sure after the meeting with the president of FIFA, things will settle down and everyone will focus on getting the job done."
Still, the failure to pass the bill, which has been ensnared in a dispute between the government and its coalition in Congress, have raised concern inside FIFA.
"This World Cup bill has to pass," Valcke said March 3, a day after his outburst. "The question is also 'what' it will be: the text is changed every day, every minute."
This week, Brazil's second-largest party in the lower house of Congress, on whom the government depends to pass legislation, said it opposes authorizing of beer sales inside World Cup stadiums. That's a key demand by FIFA, which counts Anheuser- Busch InBev NV's Budweiser brand as a top sponsor.
Rebelo said yesterday that his government remains committed to the sale of alcohol inside World Cup stadiums. South Africa had agreed to FIFA's demand before beating competitors to stage the last World Cup.
World Cup Bill
Prospects for an improved relationship between FIFA and Brazil were helped when Ricardo Teixeira, who faces a slew of corruption allegations, quit as head of the Brazilian soccer federation on March 12 after 23 years in charge.
FIFA officials including Valcke didn't meet with Teixeira on their last visit, preferring instead to talk with former national team stars Ronaldo and Bebeto, who are members of the executive committee.
Rousseff's relationship with the former soccer head was also strained. She inserted soccer icon Pele as the nation's World Cup ambassador after Teixeira had tried to exclude him from June's qualification draw for the 32-team event. Pele and Ronaldo also participated in today's meeting with Blatter.
Jordaan said his organizing team had ignored public criticism and instead focused on "delivering the best World Cup ever."
"It's about monitoring and regular progress reporting," he said. "That's something that the organization committee must do and if they do that there shouldn't be a problem."
Before being appointed FIFA president in 1998, Blatter served as general secretary for 17 years, making him responsible for the last eight World Cups.
"He's experienced and has a lot of understanding having seen many World Cups all over the world both as a hands on manager and as a person who's not hands on but to whom we are all accountable," Jordaan said. "It's good that such a person can look at any report and understand immediately whether that report is comforting or not."
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