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The most incredible thing about this whole Jerome Valcke says Brazil “needs a kick up the backside” spat is his apology.
FIFA general secretary Valcke sent a letter to Sports Minister Rebelo apologising for saying Brazil’s World Cup preparations were “not working” and that organisers needed “a kick up the backside”.
The comments caused a huge furor in Brazil, as you can see here in my Reuters story.
Valcke blamed a translator for his lack of diplomacy and said his French should have been translated as something more akin to Brazil “needs a shake.”
Well, I spoke to someone who was there when he made those comments and it turns out HE SPOKE IN ENGLISH!
What kind of man – least of all being recorded by dozens of journalists, radio reporters and cameramen – thinks he can get away with such blatant lying?
And isn’t there someone in the Brazilian government who is going to take him to task about this?
Valcke, of course, has a history of lying, as this great Independent story from 2007 reveals. He was fired from FIFA once before for lying in a court case involving big sponsors.
His boss Blatter tried to smooth over the ruffled feathers yesterday by apologising to the Brazilian government. But I don’t know if it’s enough. The Brazilian government has declared Valcke persona non grata.
We’ll find out next week if they accept the double apology and back down. Valcke is due to visit Brazil March 12.
It’s hard to feel even the slightest bit sympathy with FIFA and people like Jerome Valcke but today is one such remarkable day.
Valcke finally came out and said the obvious last night and told Brazil that its World Cup preparations were a mess and that it needed a ‘kick up the backside” to get it going again and ready for the Confederations Cup next year and the World Cup in 2014.
The Brazilians took the hump at his straight talking and Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo announced the host nation would not longer recognise Valcke as FIFA’s point man for the tournament.
The tiny bit of sympathy I have for Valcke is tempered by the fact that he should have been saying these things years ago, as he tacitly admitted yesterday. He and Blatter have long known things weren’t going to schedule but they molly coddled the Brazilians so as not to hurt their feelings.
For example, just six weeks ago Valcke wrapped up a five-day trip to Brazil saying he was “filled with great impressions and pleased with the promising outcome of his trip.”
“This commitment to stage the best FIFA World Cup ever, the high level of planning and details to ensure not only an integrated and well developed operation for the event but a sustainable social, infrastructural and environment legacy was one of the key lessons of this trip,” he said.
He must have known such statements were rubbish (and if he didn’t he shouldn’t be in the job).
Anyone paying attention to the World Cup preparations has long been aware that Brazil isn’t doing what it should or quickly enough. Stadiums are behind schedule, are being built largely with public money, and airports, hotels and other legacy infrastructure are clearly not going to be ready on time or sufficient.
FIFA are now paying the price for taking so long to be honest.
It’s sad they have let things deteriorate to this stage. What’s sadder still is that the important issues are being ignored while the protagonists swap insults.
Is it any wonder that Brazil’s World Cup preparations are such a mess with the likes of Sepp Blatter in charge?
Blatter yesterday told reporters he had received “positive” updates about work going on in Brazil.
“We don’t have any problem because we have received positive reports from all sides — especially in construction,” Blatter told reporters, according to this AP report in USA Today. He said construction was progressing well “not just for stadiums but for airports and hotels in different regions.”
On March 28, Blatter said: “I must say that in comparison with the state of play between South Africa and Brazil three years before the World Cup, Brazil is behind South Africa. (The World Cup is) tomorrow. The Brazilians think it’s just the day after tomorrow. What they must do is to give a little bit more speed now in the organization.”
Now either Blatter is absolutely clueless, which can’t be discounted, or he is shamelessly changing his message to suit different audiences, which is more likely given he’s up for reelection.
The truth is that even a blind man can see Brazil’s preparations are behind schedule. Officials in one host city, Natal, haven’t decided on a stadium yet, while in São Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city and the one chosen to hold the tournament’s opening game, FIFA ruled out the 80,000-capacity Morumbi in favour of a much smaller ground that is still no more than a paper mache model.
The government’s own agency, Ipea, has just released a study showing that nine of the 13 airports being reformed for the tournament won’t be ready in time, according to this Brazilian blog on UOL.
Of course there is one way to know why Blatter is contradicting himself so ridiculously. FIFA could show us what’s in their progress reports.
But that would require transparency and accountability. There’s no chance of that.