FIFA's flexible Valcke in samba swerve
SAO PAULO (AFP) –
FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke, whose criticism last spring of Brazil’s World Cup preparations upset the hosts, said Friday the game’s ruling body and the South Americans had agreed on the need for flexibility.
Neatly swerving around the criticism which rained down after he suggested the Brazilians needed a “kick up the backside,” Valcke told reporters that after his trenchant words “we became a FIFA-samba – we became more flexible.”
He recognised his earlier comments had kicked up a storm and made him for awhile persona non grata in Brazil.
But he added that FIFA had come to understand that dealing with the realpolitik of the staging of a World Cup in Brazil meant a more softly-softly approach was required, while adding that he did not think next year’s Confederations Cup will be “a real rehearsal of the World Cup.”
Valcke said there had been concerns as “we arrived in Brazil saying, ‘okay, we know how to organise the World Cup – “and Brazil was saying, ‘sorry, sorry, we know what’s football and you will not tell us how to make it.”
He added that FIFA replied “yes, but we are Swiss and the trains have to arrive at nine a.m and not one minute past nine!
“My words (of criticism) created a war in a sense. Twenty four hours afterwards, according to certain media I should have resigned. It took a while for us to have an exchange and to digest what I had said.”
Valcke insisted that his comments beforehand were not meant to sound as harsh as they appeared but acknowledged that he had become at that stage unwelcome in the country.
“But then we got round the table” and thrashed out a way to proceed as his team dealt with three levels of government – federal, state and municipal.
“In one meeting you have three different meetings, your work is a bit more difficult,” Valcke said. “When you give a World Cup seven years in advance, you never think about that,” whereas the Brazilian attitude had been “Oh, we have seven years, it’s more than enough.’”
He conceded that initially, “due to my words we reached a level where we were going nowhere.
“Work has been done, if we were at the same level today that we were 10 months ago, I would be as negative as I was 10 months ago. Work has been done. We are moving on, and in the right way.”
He added that since the 2010 finals in South Africa – the first World Cup in Africa – FIFA had become closely involved with the organisation process having previously not had to be so focused on infrastructure issues.
“(The South Africa event) was the first time that FIFA was so involved in the organization of a World Cup – it was really a day-to-day work. For the first time FIFA learned what it means to organize a World Cup from A to Z.”
He added that FIFA is not expecting Brazil to be ready for the World Cup by the time the Confederations Cup is played here next June.
“The question again is more to make sure that we test what can be tested during the Confederations Cup and not try to think that we will have a real rehearsal of the World Cup. It will not be.”
Valcke said FIFA had to think primarily of the fans when it came to issues such as coordionation and transport links – particularly in a country the size of Brazil.
“We need to protect them and a country the size of Brazil is a challenge,” said Valcke, who also warned against profiteering when it came to accommodation prices.