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Valcke smiling, but WCup still a concern for FIFA

Valcke smiling after final visit to Brazil, but World Cup remains a concern for FIFA

Posted on April 26, 2014 at 12:07 p.m.

SAO PAULO (AP) — FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke ended his latest visit to Brazil with an upbeat message, saying in a few weeks he would be celebrating the start of a successful World Cup by drinking a “caipirinha” cocktail with Brazil sports minister Aldo Rebelo.

But it was clear that FIFA’s top World Cup official wasn’t fully happy with what he saw in the country, where there was still a lot to be done less than seven weeks before the June 12 kickoff.

All 12 stadiums were supposed to be ready by the end of last year, but three remain unfinished.

The Sao Paulo stadium that will host the Brazil-Croatia opener was still way behind schedule and can fit in only one official test event, and not even with the venue’s full capacity.

“Yes, Sao Paulo will be ready, last minute, but it will be ready,” Valcke said, with a mix of confidence and caution, on Friday.

Valcke arrived at the Arena da Baixada in the southern city of Curitiba, which was nearly excluded from the tournament this year, to find there was “still lots to do inside and outside” the stadium, including the installation of 27,000 seats.

Lack of seats was also a problem at Arena Pantanal in the wetlands city of Cuiaba because of delivery delays, although Valcke said he was “fine” and “happy” with the overall progress there.

Valcke also said there were “potential issues” with the stadium in the southern city of Porto Alegre, which was completed but with work remaining outside the venue and on the temporary structures needed for matches.

In the northeastern city of Fortaleza, Valcke checked on the location of its fanfest, just as officials in the neighboring city of Recife reiterated they would not stage a fanfest unless private sponsors were found to help pay for the event.

Valcke gave a blunt warning to cities struggling to get their fanfests organized, saying they had “no choice” and faced possible court action from FIFA if they didn’t fulfil their contracts.

Before leaving, he also downplayed the recent outbreak of urban violence in Rio de Janeiro.

He will be back for good in late May and was already looking forward to that drink with Rebelo, the man who two years ago wanted him removed from his post for bluntly saying Brazil needed a kick to get things going.

“I hope we’ll enjoy a caipirinha with Aldo Rebelo on the day of the opening, just thinking, ‘Wow, we made it,‘” Valcke said. “And a bottle of champagne at the end of the World Cup by saying, ‘Yes, we did it.‘”

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