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The reformed Maracana stadium in Rio, where the 2014 World Cup final will be held

Brazil won the right to host the 2014 World Cup five years ago yesterday.

Since that decision was made, Brazil’s politicians have repeatedly assured us the tournament would be organised efficiently, transparently and with a minimum of cost to the taxpayer.

“The event will have total transparency,” said President Lula. “We are going to put on an unforgettable World Cup. That’s the commitment. You can hold us to it.”

“Public money isn’t going to be used for the World Cup,” said Ricardo Teixeira, the former head of the CBF.

“There won’t be one cent of public money used to build stadiums,” said then Sports Minister Orlando Silva.

We can now see that none of it was true.

  • The vast majority of the money being used is taxpayer’s money.
  • Transport projects, the ones that would lave the biggest legacy for Brazilians, and especially the less well off, are being scaled back.
  • At least four of the 12 stadiums are destined to be white elephants, according to the government’s own Accounting Court.
  • The main beneficiaries so far are construction companies, who not coincidentally are among the biggest contributors to Brazil’s politicians.

I’ve written about this in a long Reuters piece that is now online.

The piece focuses on the promised transparency and how authorities have failed to provide reliable, up-to-date, and clear information on spending.

Gil Castello Branco, the secretary general of Contas Abertas, a non-profit group that monitors public expenditures, summed it up thus:

Officials boasted that tracking spending would be “so easy that any citizen could sit on his sofa and see where the money was being spent.”

“But it doesn’t matter if you’re on the sofa, in the kitchen, or at the office, no one knows how much this is costing,” he added.

“The information we get is incomplete, contradictory and late. And frequently misleading.”

So, Lula, Teixeira, Orlando Silva. We’re holding you to that commitment. What now?

Any hopes the resignation of Ricardo Teixeira as the head of the Brazilian Football Confederation might lead to a wholescale change of the old guard in charge of South American football have been well and truly dashed this week.

First, Teixeira was replaced by 79-year old Jose Maria Marin, a one-time politician appointed by Brazil’s military dictators and who earlier this year was caught on camera pilfering a young lad’s medal at a football tournament.

Then, yesterday, Teixeira was replaced on FIFA’s executive committee by Marco Polo del Nero, the 71-year old head of the Paulista Football Federation. (See my Reuters story here.)

Del Nero will sit at FIFA’s top table alongside Nicolas Leoz, the 83-year old head of Conmebol, the South American Football Confederation, and Julio Grondona, 80, the man who has presided over Argentine football since 1979.

None of this bodes well for the future of South American football. The Jurassic age continues….

 

Socrates, in 1986

A few years ago, Time magazine had me call Socrates to ask him if he would pen a short piece on Kaka.

The magazine’s editors – perhaps the same ones who suggested last month that Lionel Messi was better than Pele – had chosen Kaka as one of the 100 most influential people on the planet and they wanted Socrates to write an eulogy.

Socrates had one question for me. Is this about Kaka the footballer or Kaka the man, he asked. Kaka, the man, I replied.

To my delight, Socrates dismissed the idea out of hand. He had great respect for Kaka with a ball at his feet but not with a bible in his hand.

Time got Casey Keller to write the piece instead.

I thought of this last night when I saw that Neymar had described Ricardo Teixeira as “an excellent president” of the CBF. The young Santos star made the comments on the same day that Edmundo declared that he “loved” Ricardo Teixeira and a few days after Ronaldo and Bebeto both lauded Teixeira’s work.

(See the Neymar comments in Portuguese here, and details of Ronaldo and Bebeto’s nonsense here in my Reuters piece from last week.)

Socrates was not just a brilliant footballer. He was an intelligent and highly  principled man who fought hard so that players like Neymar could have more of a voice, both inside and outside the game.

He must be rolling in his grave.

Former World Cup winning striker Bebeto yesterday joined Ronaldo on the committee that is organising the 2014 World Cup.

(Read more details in my Reuters piece here.)

Why he was chosen for the job was not explained. What is clear is that there are now two former players with little organising experience preparing Brazil to host one of the biggest sporting events on the globe. It’s an odd decision to put it mildly.

The selection of a first time state deputy to one of football’s big jobs is also interesting for the way it pits Bebeto against his former strike partner Romario.

The deadly duo led Brazil to World Cup glory in 1994 and were famous for this celebration (above right), after Bebeto scored in the epic quarter final win over Holland. Bebeto made the famous gesture to celebrate the birth of his daughter, born shortly before the match.

(Here’s the official list of all Bebeto’s games and goals for the national side.)

Now, the two men will be at odds. Bebeto backed Ricardo Teixeira, the controversial CBF chief who hired him, while Romario has been one of Teixeira’s most outspoken critics.

Romario blames Teixeira for the terrible way Brazil has prepared for the tournament. Stadiums were slow to get started and are over budget and infrastructure, particularly airports, is a mess.

It will be interesting to see if the two strikers, not to mention Ronaldo, who appears dreadfully unaware politically, will clash in their new roles.

Watch this space.

 

 

It’s been 17 years, almost to the day, since I last wrote for Reuters.

When I left Port-au-Prince in February 1995 to go to Mexico City I cut my ties with the news agency and moved on.

Today I saw my name under the Reuters logo again, this time from Brazil. I will be writing about sports, and particularly football, in the months and I hope years to come.

My first piece today was about Ricardo Teixeira, a man I’ve written about many times before. The lead promises more news on the CBF president very soon.

The president of the Brazilian Football Confederation and the man charged with organising the 2014 World Cup was reportedly close to resigning on Wednesday after a local newspaper implicated him in another corruption scandal.

Ricardo Teixeira, who has headed the CBF for 22 years, could step down as early as Thursday, O Globo newspaper reported.

The news came on the day another newspaper, Folha de S.Paulo, reported that a company linked to the football boss overcharged the organisers of a November 2008 friendly match between Brazil and Portugal in Brazil’s capital, Brasilia.

For more on Ricardo Teixeira see this earlier post.

 

Ricardo Teixeira doesn’t give many interviews but when he does, they’re worth waiting for.

The all-powerful head of the Brazilian Football Confederation and the man in charge of organizing the next World Cup allowed Piauí magazine to accompany him to Switzerland last month for the election of FIFA’s president.

The resulting profile is one of the best pieces of journalism I’ve read in years.

Teixeira hates the press but reporter Daniela Pinheiro put her considerable charm to work and simply let him talk.

He couldn’t resist and her piece has a dozen delicious anecdotes and quotes from the man who could well succeed Sepp Blatter as the most powerful man in football.

Teixeira, who has been head of the CBF since 1989, has resolved not to run for president again when his current term ends in 2015.

The article closes with this quote (my translation):

“In 2014, I can get up to whatever nastiness I want. The most excessive, unthinkable, most Machiavellian nastiness. (Like) not giving out credentials, (like) restricting access, (like) changing kick off times. And you know what will happen if I do? Nothing. And you know why? Because I’ll be gone in 2015. And that’s that.”

The piece is now available online to subscribers and in English too. It is a must for anyone interested in football or great journalism.

The Brazilian Football Confederation has announced that Corinthians as yet unbuilt stadium will host the opening match of the 2014 World Cup.

(This according to the Folha de São Paulo; the CBF’s own statement is poorly worded and more circumspect.)

It’s a scandalous and risky decision for a whole number of reasons, not least of which is that no one yet knows anything about the proposed arena.

Local media quoted Corinthians President Andres Sanchez as saying the stadium will have 48,000 seats. But FIFA states that the venue for the tournament’s opening match must hold 65,000 fans.

There’s also no guarantee that the stadium in Itaquera, on São Paulo’s East Side, will be ready in time or that it will meet FIFA’s strict criteria. The area will also need to update transport links, add car parks, and areas to host sponsors.

Experts say it takes around 30 months to build a new stadium from scratch, and that’s from the moment the first diggers move in. More time is needed beforehand to complete environmental impact reports, consult residents and do all the other preparation work.

The CBF urgently needed to make a decision about which stadium São Paulo would use, having dilly-dallied for far too long. In that sense, it’s action at last.

Corinthians, too, can be relieved they are at last getting the stadium they so desperately crave.

But this decision looks like one more capricious move by Teixeira. It’s based on personal friendships (with Sanchez) and vendettas (against São Paulo Futebol Club, owners of the Morumbi).

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