Fifa fears Maracana won't be ready for World Cup

EXCLUSIVE
By Kris Voakes

Fifa has told Goal it has serious concerns over the issues which have caused the second test event at the World Cup final venue in Rio de Janeiro to be cancelled and has urged Brazilian officials to get their act together.

The world-famous Maracana hosted its first match since extensive renovations in front of 25,000 fans at the end of April, but teething problems at the exhibition game have led to the follow-up event in front of a larger crowd being shelved.

This now leaves stadium officials, who this week announced that building costs at the ground have rocketed by €75 million to €425m, facing a race against time to have the facility ready in time for the Confederations Cup in June. And the development has been met by stern words from the game’s governing body.

“Since November 2012, it was requested that all stadia have a minimum of two test events before the Fifa Confederations Cup,” a Fifa spokesperson told Goal. “There is no doubt that the more the stadia are tested the better, and that is the reason we have asked for the delivery of stadia six months before the [World Cup].

“Moreover, in a joint assessment between the state of Rio de Janeiro, the Local Organising Committee and the construction company, it was decided that specific simulations will be done, in other words, tests of several areas of the stadium aiming to find solutions to potential challenges before the Fifa Confederations Cup.

“Fifa is for sure concerned as it is vital that the firm deadline of December 2013 be kept [ahead of the World Cup]. The host cities concerned, the federal government and stadium owners have committed to this delivery date and acknowledged that for the Fifa World Cup no compromises can be made in order not to jeopardise the successful staging of football’s flagship event. [This is] something which is not only crucial for Fifa but for the entire host nation.”

Brazil national coach Luiz Felipe Scolari this week aired his own concerns about the Maracana’s readiness for the Selecao’s forthcoming friendly fixture against England on June 2, which is scheduled to be the first game played in front of a full crowd at the newly refurbished venue.

“The Maracana is okay as long as the surrounding works are finished. The technical area, the playing field and locker rooms are excellent. All very nice, very good,” said Scolari.

“But I cannot speak for the rest. It is the contractor performing the work who must speak of this and I do not know if everything will be ready by June 2.”

New reports in Brazil have confirmed that the substitutes' benches at all six Confederations Cup stadiums will have to either be adapted or rebuilt after been constructed contrary to Fifa specifications. All of the benches have been set up slightly below pitch level, despite the world governing body strictly specifying that such a design was not permitted. The realigned technical areas will mean that tickets will not be permitted for sale in the three to four rows of sets behind each bench due to the changing sight lines, further extending building and budgeting issues.

The current problems are just the latest chapter in a series of difficulties for the organising committees over the preparations for this summer’s Confederations Cup and the World Cup in 2014. Setbacks have ranged from funding issues to the unfortunate death of a construction worker after taking a fall at the new Manaus Arena. And after Fifa’s latest warning, there will be increased focus on the continued works going on around the country before the December deadline.

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