FIFA says working with Brazil for best 2014 World Cup

Brazil and FIFA pledged Friday to work together for the success of the 2014 World Cup after high-level fence-mending talks to end their public row over criticism of the country's lagging preparations for the top sporting event.

"We came to the conclusion that we will work together hand in hand and we will be able... to present the most extraordinary Word Cup ever organized," FIFA boss Sepp Blatter said after a meeting lasting nearly two hours with President Dilma Rousseff here.

The talks aimed to put a final end to the row sparked earlier this month by FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke who slammed Brazil's lagging preparations for the World Cup.

Blatter said Rousseff pledged to meet all of the commitments made to FIFA by the government of her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Rousseff said that "the Brazilian government will honor all the commitments" made to FIFA," he noted. "I have full confidence in Brazil's ability to organize this Cup."

Sport Minister Aldo Rebelo attended the meeting and said it served to reaffirm "the joint objective of Brazil and FIFA to stage a great World Cup and to work in harmony and cooperation."

"The Brazilian government is striving to meet its commitments," the minister added.

Also attending the meeting were Brazil's soccer legend Pele, an ambassador of the 2014 World Cup, and fellow retired star Ronaldo, a high-profile member of the country's organizing committee for the event.

Valcke ignited a firestorm of protest when he suggested the Brazilian organizers of football's 2014 showpiece needed a "kick up the backside" because preparations were running behind schedule.

FIFA subsequently apologized for Valcke's remarks, which Brazilian authorities deemed offensive.

Brazil accepted the apologies but Rebelo said Valcke was no longer acceptable as a FIFA spokesman.

"Valcke is still working for FIFA. And the issue between Valcke and Brazil is one for the FIFA president, one that I must solve," Blatter said. "Could you give me the time to (find) a solution?"

But Blatter did not say whether Valcke would continue to be the FIFA pointman in Brazil.

Valcke was to have visited the country this week to monitor progress in the World Cup preparations, but the visit has been postponed.

Pele meanwhile told reporters that he was here as a "fireman... to put out the fires" and said he was sure that from now "we (Brazil and FIFA) will move forward in harmony, without confusion."

In his controversial remarks, Valcke said: "I am sorry to say but things are not working in Brazil. You expect more support -- there are these endless discussions about the World Cup bill. We should have received these documents signed by 2007 and we are in 2012.

"You have to push yourself, kick your arse and just deliver this World Cup and that is what we will do."

Valcke said he profoundly regretted that an incorrect interpretation of his comments had triggered such an angry response from the host country.

FIFA has for months expressed concern over whether preparations, such as infrastructure projects and renovation or construction of stadiums, are on track for the first World Cup in football-mad Brazil since 1950.

The other issue is the delay in securing approval by the Brazilian legislature of a bill sought by FIFA since 2007 that would notably lift a ban on beer sales in stadiums during the World Cup. The vote, which has been repeatedly postponed, could take place next week.

Sales of alcoholic beverages in sports arenas have been banned in Brazil since 2003, but the bill would create an exception, allowing beer to be sold in plastic cups at World Cup matches.

FIFA has an agreement with its sponsor, the US-based Anheuser-Busch brand Budweiser, and prohibiting beer sales would cut into the football organization's revenues from the games.

The bill would also authorize 300,000 low-cost tickets for students and underprivileged recipients of the government's welfare programs.


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