(WFI) FIFA confirms to INSIDER that under-fire secretary general Jerome Valcke will travel to Brazil next week for a check-up on 2014 World Cup progress after making an extraordinary apology to Dilma Rousseff’s government for saying tournament organisers needed a “kick up the backside” to accelerate preparations.
Valcke sent a letter to Brazilian sports minister Aldo Rebelo on Monday night, saying he “deeply regrets that a misinterpretation in the translation of his words have caused much concern.
“In French, ‘se donner un coup de pied aux fesses’ just means ‘to pick up the pace’ or, in Portuguese, ‘retomar o ritmo’ and, unfortunately, this expression was translated into Portuguese using much stronger words.”
Valcke added: “I would therefore like to apologise to you and also to anyone who was shocked by my words.”
Rebelo was outraged by Valcke’s critical comments on Friday and said Saturday that Brazil would no longer deal with the FIFA No.2.
The row escalated on Monday when Marco Aurelio Garcia, a senior adviser to President Rousseff, called Valcke a shameless “loudmouth” and echoed Rebelo’s remarks that the FIFA chief was no longer welcome as a negotiator in 2014 World Cup preparations.
The dispute appears to have put Valcke’s next host city tour beginning on March 12 in jeopardy.
But a FIFA spokesperson in the Brazil 2014 office told INSIDER: “Yes, they are still the plans.”
FIFA officials in Zurich spent Monday crafting the apology on behalf of Valcke in a bid to restore ties with the Brazilian government and to ensure he can continue to oversee 2014 World Cup preparations, a crucial remit of his role at world football’s governing body.
In his letter, Valcke admitted: “There is certainly an air of concern at FIFA, and as the person who is ultimately responsible for delivery of this World Cup I am under quite some pressure.”
With kick-off of the 2013 Confederations Cup only 15 months and the opening match of the World Cup just 27 months away, Valcke stressed the urgency of speeding up preparations.
“The World Cup is the key to our entire
system. I am confident that there is no insurmountable problem that cannot be solved through the efforts of FIFA, the LOC and the Brazilian authorities in their various levels,” Valcke said.
The Frenchman even felt it necessary to reiterate “as I have done on many occasions, that Brazil is and always will be the only option as host of the 2014 FIFA World Cup”.
“Please be assured that making the World Cup in Brazil, a country for which I hold great respect and admiration, a success is not only my duty but my greatest wish.”
Rebelo, who acknowledges receipt of the apology on his Twitter page, has so far not responded to the letter and it remains unclear what kind of reception Valcke will receive when he lands in Recife next week.
Recife is one of the two venues still competing to become a host city for the Confederations Cup; the other is Salvador. The decision will be made in June based on an assessment of construction progress by FIFA stadium experts.
Valcke’s tour continues to Brasilia where an LOC Board meeting also takes place next week. This is followed by a visit to Cuiaba.
Ahead of Valcke’s scheduled arrival, a FIFA delegation today begins a week-long inspection to monitor the progress of construction on stadia and infrastructure projects. AFP reports that around 40 experts from FIFA and the LOC are inspecting work on stadium projects in six of 12 host cities. They are: Sao Paulo, Porto Alegre, Curitiba, Cuiaba, Manaus and Natal.
There is growing frustration at FIFA over Brazil’s delays across the 2014 project, not just in building some of the 12 host stadia and airports infrastructure nationwide but also in pushing through legislation setting out the regulatory framework for the competition. Brazil is stalling on plans to relax laws banning alcohol in stadiums and drop plans to discount tickets for students and people over 65.
The bill must still be passed by congress and rubberstamped by Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff.
In January, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said the 2014 tournament organization in Brazil was “not as good as in Russia, even though there is little more than two years left until the Brazil World Cup, and until the Russian one, more than six years”.
“Brazil has so many problems, but with Russia everything will be wonderful,” Blatter said on a visit to the 2018 host nation.
By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson
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