Brazil scrambles to meet deadlines
SAO PAULO -- FIFA and Brazil World Cup organizers are trying to show unity in preparing the country to host the event in 2014.
FIFA is wrapping up an inspection tour of the host cities and will oversee the draw on Saturday for next year's Confederations Cup. There's also a board meeting of the local committee on Wednesday.
The activities come at a tumultuous time. Brazil is without a coach amid internal disputes at the federation. A local member of FIFA's executive committee was targeted in a police operation and some World Cup projects have been removed from the list of infrastructure work planned by the government.
Tighter deadlines are magnifying the challenges of getting Brazil ready for the Confederations Cup and 2014 World Cup. But FIFA and local organizers stress they are in sync.
"There's no problem with the relationship between FIFA and the LOC," FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke said. "We don't have a problem with the Brazilian government or with any of the 12 host cities. They are our representatives."
Soccer's governing body gave local organizers a big vote of confidence this month when it made an exception to approve the Confederations Cup with six host cities despite knowing that some stadiums won't be ready until just before the tournament in June.
"Two stadiums will be delivered in the middle of April, well behind schedule, though our technical team said everything was fine and we have to trust them," Valcke said. "The government has given its word the work will be finished and we have to believe people."
Valcke was responsible for igniting a controversy with the government this year after criticizing the country's preparations. FIFA President Sepp Blatter had to apologize after the government threatened not to deal with the secretary general.
But when Valcke was upset on Monday with the Rio de Janeiro government for announcing an exhibition at Maracana Stadium without FIFA's authorization, he was backed by Brazil's sports ministry.
Rio de Janeiro Gov. Sergio Cabral publicly announced that Brazil will face England to reopen the renovated stadium on June 2. However, Cabral didn't realize the stadium will be under FIFA's control from May 27 for the Confederations Cup.
"For the time being, we have not authorized the game," Valcke said on Monday.
The state said it will work with FIFA to try to gain permission.
Valcke said he was not worried about the police investigation of FIFA official Marco Polo del Nero, who was the vice president of the Brazilian federation and the president of the Sao Paulo state federation.
Police entered his home and checked information on his computers as part of a nationwide probe on the sale of confidential information and financial crimes. Thirty-three people were arrested, but Del Nero was only interrogated and denied any involvement. Police said the operation was not related to soccer, and Del Nero said he was questioned only because a company he hired for a personal business transaction was among those investigated.
Valcke called it an "internal" issue.
Del Nero was one of the top federation officials directly involved in the decision to fire coach Mano Menezes last week. The federation director who made the announcement, Andres Sanchez, said he was against the decision. Sanchez is expected to leave the entity this week, likely creating an opposing force to president Jose Maria Marin.
There is also turmoil in some of the host cities. The government in the capital of Brasilia this year removed an urban train project from the list of infrastructure work planned for the World Cup because it would not be ready in time. The same happened with a monorail project in the jungle city of Manaus.
Manaus also is considering changing its plans for the location of its Fan Fest venue because construction work may not be completed in time for the World Cup. FIFA had approved all the venues in April.