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FIFA’s Secretary General Jerome Valcke published his regular column today and in it gave the strongest hint yet that Recife will be cut from the Confederations Cup.

Next Thursday, FIFA will announce the cities that will host the tournament. So far, six are on the preliminary list: Brasilia, Salvador, Recife, Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza and Rio de Janeiro.

Recife is the big question mark because builders say it will be ready in February, only four months before the tournament starts.

Valcke said today that arenas must be ready six months ahead of time:

“This is a crucial moment for us organisers because once the ticket sales start it would be very problematic if a venue runs into challenges to be ready to host matches. And here I need to repeat myself when we speak about readiness. We do not mean the day of the tournament kick-off but with enough time to stage at least two proper test events. That is also why we always reiterate that the venues for the major FIFA tournaments need to be ready six months ahead of the first game.

“I know this sounds a long time but in reality it’s not. New venues particularly need more time to be fully tested at various events at different capacities. From electrics to crowd management, from stewards to public transport and parking management all processes must be well established to ensure that come the FIFA Confederations Cup next June – when Brazil will be in the spotlight of the world – we will not face any major operational obstacles.”

I mention the construction of the Arena Pernambuco in this recent Reuters piece.

I visited the stadium last week and it looks like it will be great, with steep stands and a cauldron atmosphere due the fact that the fans are on top of the players.

It would be a shame if it is not ready in time.

But all will be revealed next week.

The ball to be used in the 2014 World Cup is to be named Brazuca, a playfully slang word for native Brazilians, FIFA and official sponsor adidas announced on Sunday.

Brazuca got 70 percent of the more than 1 million votes cast in an online contest to choose the name, adidas said.

The name, which adidas said summed up the irreverence of the host nation, won out over Carnavalesca, a word describing someone who plans or participates in the country’s raucous carnival celebrations and Bossa Nova, a reference to the famous samba-jazz music genre popularised in Rio de Janeiro in the late 1950s and 1960s

“I’m delighted that Brazilian football fans have had the opportunity to play their part in deciding the name of one of the event’s most important symbols,” said FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke.

“I’m sure that the Brazuca ball will go down in history together with other iconic FIFA World Cup balls, such as the Tango in Argentina in 1978 and the Azteca in Mexico in 1986.”

The name was revealed today during TV Globo’s Esporte Espectacular programme.

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.

“I am sorry to say, but things are not working in Brazil,” Valcke said. “You have to push yourself, kick your backside and just deliver this World Cup.”

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.

Rebelo said Valcke’s statement was “unacceptable” and that he would officially inform FIFA President Sepp Blatter that they will not deal with the secretary general.

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.

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