FIFA’s Jerome Valcke Apologizes to Brazil for Critical Comments

March 6, 2012

FIFA’s secretary-general Jerome Valcke has apologised to Brazil, after he was denounced for saying that preparations for the 2014 World Cup were behind schedule, according to the country’s government.

“I would like to present my apologies to everyone who was offended by my comments,” Valcke said in a letter sent to the sports minister Aldo Rebelo, his department said.

Valcke said last week that Brazil needed “a kick up the backside” to catch up on vital infrastructure work, with just over two years to go to the start of football’s showpiece global event and the first World Cup in Brazil since 1950.

The senior governing body official added that he “profoundly regretted that an incorrect interpretation” of his comments had triggered such an angry response from the host country.

He clarified that in French the phrase “se donner un coup de pied aux fesses” (to give someone a kick up the backside) only meant “to pick up the pace”. The translation into Portuguese used a stronger expression, he added.

The Brazilian government on Saturday denounced Valcke as a “loudmouth” and said they no longer considered him a go-between between FIFA and the World Cup organisers.

On Monday, Rebelo made the government’s position official, sending a letter to FIFA president Sepp Blatter, in which he said that they were “horrified” by his comments, Brazilian newspapers reported.

The row erupted a week before a new inspection by Valcke to evaluate how work was progressing in the four cities already designated for the Confederations Cup next year: Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, Belo Horizonte and Fortaleza.

The Confederations Cup, which will serve as a dress rehearsal for the World Cup, is scheduled to be held from June 15 to 30, 2013. Two other cities — Recife and Salvador — are still awaiting final approval from FIFA and Brazilian organisers.

Held every four years, the Confederations Cup brings together the title winners from each of the world’s six confederations, in addition to reigning world champions Spain and hosts Brazil.

In his letter, Valcke said there were concerns at FIFA about delays in organisation for the World Cup.

But he said he was satisfied “that there is no problem that cannot be overcome by the efforts of FIFA, the local organising committee and the Brazilian authorities”.

“I would like to reiterate, as I have done on a number of occasions, that Brazil is and will always be the only option to host the (World) Cup,” he added.

FIFA, including Blatter himself, has for several months been critical of delays in work on stadia and infrastructure like hotels and airports, plus the fact that deadlines kept being put back.

A FIFA inspection team is due to arrive in Brazil on Tuesday to check the progress of work at venues in Sao Paulo, Porto Alegre, Curitiba, Cuiaba, Manaus and Natal, which will also host matches in 2014.

by Ismail Uddin