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The Brazilian government is severing relations with FIFA’s top administrator after he criticized the country’s preparations for the 2014 soccer World Cup.
The organizers of sports most-watched event needed a “kick up the ass,” General Secretary Jerome Valcke said yesterday at a meeting in England. Brazilian Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo today labeled the comments as “unacceptable” and said the government will cease to recognize Valcke.
“The government can no longer have the secretary general as a representative,” Rebelo, a former congressman for the government-aligned Communist party, told reporters in Brasilia. “We need a representative who has the ability to understand the level of responsibilities required for this type of relationship,” he said.
Relations between FIFA and the Brazilian government became strained as the country failed to ratify legislation on hosting the tournament. Brazil had committed to passing the bill when it was awarded the right to stage the $5 billion event five years ago. FIFA has also complained about delays in building stadiums and other infrastructure needed.
Rebelo said he would communicate the government’s decision to cut ties with Valcke with FIFA President Sepp Blatter. Brazil, the record five-time winner of the tournament, will host the World Cup in 2014 for the first time in 64 years.
“We need a representative who has the ability to understand the level of responsibilities required for this type of relationship,” Rebelo said. He said the special law would be voted on by a congressional committee next week and that its approval was taking place at a “reasonable pace.”
Valcke, a Frenchman, said he was surprised by Rebelo’s reaction and dismissed it as childish.
“I made one comment saying things are not working well and I for once say exactly what is happening in Brazil,” Valcke told reporters after a meeting in Bagshot, England, today. “If the result is they don’t want to talk to me anymore, I’m not the guy they want to work with, then that’s a bit puerile.”
Valcke, in England for a meeting of soccer’s lawmakers, the International Football Association Board, has been vocal about the lack of preparedness in Brazil for the past year. He said he had no intention of backing away from heading FIFA’s efforts to organize the tournament and would travel to Brazil to meet with event planners in two weeks.
Valcke yesterday said he was frustrated with the “endless discussions” in congress about the proposed World Cup law.
He said FIFA had made concessions to get the bill passed, like accepting demands for reduced priced tickets for senior citizens and changing the wording of what it required in government guarantees. The two sides have yet to agree on the sale of alcohol in stadiums, illegal in Brazil. FIFA’s demands for sponsor protection have also sparked criticism.
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