FIFA President Sepp Blatter has asked to meet with Brazil’s head of state Dilma Rousseff “as soon as possible” as the relationship soured between soccer’s governing body and the host of the 2014 World Cup.
Brazilian Minister of Sports Aldo Rebelo said March 3 his country would cease cooperating with Jerome Valcke, FIFA’s general secretary and the person responsible for organizing sport’s most watched event, after the Frenchman a day earlier used profanity to express his displeasure at Brazil’s lack of progress.
Blatter’s intervention made yesterday came a day after Valcke issued a separate apology, in which he said the comments were translated from French to Portuguese and came out stronger then he intended. Valcke didn’t explain why the words would’ve been translated from French given that the comments were made to reporters in English.
“I am gravely concerned about the deterioration in the relationship between FIFA and the Brazilian government,” Blatter said in a letter sent from Dhaka, Bangladesh. “As FIFA President and personally, I would like to apologize to all those -- above all the Brazilian government and President Dilma Rousseff -- who feel that their honor and pride has been injured.”
FIFA’s relationship with the Brazilian government has worsened after delays to construction and legislation promised when the country was awarded the hosting rights. The biggest point of disagreement is over Brazil’s failure to pass a special law containing government guarantees linked to its hosting offer. FIFA has also complained about delays in building stadiums and other infrastructure.
Critics of the sport’s body in South America’s biggest country, like Romario, a former World Cup winner-turned politician, have accused it of being heavy handed and putting FIFA’s commercial needs ahead of the interests of the Brazilian people. They’ve objected to plans to overturn a ban on the sale of alcohol in stadiums, ticket sale restrictions and special measures to promote official sponsors.
In his letter Blatter called for the two sides to try and avoid any more delays, saying “the sands of time have been running since 2007.”
“Let us not waste time on entrenching our positions,” Blatter said. “Let us instead build something great together, as promised by President Lula during his presidency.”
The FIFA president is on a tour in south Asia this week. He said he’d like to travel to Brazil next week, when Valcke is also planning to go for a meeting with event organizers.
“They don’t want me to but I’m still going to go: We have a World Cup to organize,” Valcke said in an interview moments after being told Rebelo had called for him to be replaced.
Valcke has faced controversy before. He was the organization’s marketing director in 2006 when it was fined $60 million after a New York court said it violated a sponsorship agreement with Mastercard Inc. in favor of rival VISA Inc.
Last year he had to write to 2022 World Cup host Qatar to clarify an e-mail he sent to a former FIFA vice president in which he claimed the gas-rich Gulf state “bought” the staging rights.