Blatter: FIFA received guarantees from Brazil

TALES AZZONI AP Sports Writer Published:

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) -- Brazil reassured FIFA President Sepp Blatter on Friday that it will fulfill its commitments concerning preparations for the 2014 World Cup.

Blatter said he is leaving Brazil satisfied after a "good meeting" with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

He said FIFA and Rousseff agreed to work more closely together to help keep the country's preparations on track, and that he is confident Brazil will be able to host the best World Cup of all time.

Blatter added that he will deal with the problem involving the Brazilian government and FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke, who was in charge of working with the government. The meeting came two weeks after Valcke made harsh remarks about Brazil's slow preparations for the tournament.

Pele and Ronaldo also joined Blatter and Rousseff in the nation's capital. Brazil Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo, who threatened to cut the country's ties with Valcke, also attended. Pele is a World Cup ambassador, while Ronaldo is a member of the local organizing committee.

"It was a good meeting because it gave me an opportunity, and (an opportunity) to the president, to exchange some points of views on this World Cup," Blatter said. "I'm happy with the outcome of this meeting. You will see a smiling FIFA president and we are looking forward to a very good organization here."

The FIFA president said he was happy to hear from the government that it remains committed to fulfilling the guarantees promised to FIFA.

"The president has said that there is no doubt that the government of Brazil will implement all guarantees that have been given to FIFA by the government before she entered into office," he said. "The government will fulfill the requirements and guarantees given, and I trust Brazil."

FIFA had been expressing concerns over delays by Brazil's Congress to approve a World Cup bill regulating the tournament and giving FIFA the financial and legal guarantees needed to organize the event.

The sticking point in the bill is the sale of alcohol inside stadiums, which is against the law in Brazil but is demanded by FIFA because Budweiser is a major World Cup sponsor. Despite Rousseff's assurances to Blatter on Friday, it remains up to Brazil's Congress to approve it.

But Blatter also got guarantees from congressmen that the bill's approval would likely happen soon. In a lunch with legislators after the meeting with Rousseff, the FIFA president said he was glad to see that the congressmen were committed to pushing the bill through, which he said was a priority.

House leader Marco Maia said the government would do whatever needed to make sure the bill is approved next week.

"We are confident that all the agreements will be fulfilled in their totality," Maia said.

The bill was one of the issues that prompted Valcke to make his remarks two weeks ago. Blatter asked for the meeting with Rousseff while apologizing for Valcke's comments, but he hinted the issue was not a main topic in Friday's meeting.

"We have not discussed any details with President Dilma. FIFA's secretary general is a theme for FIFA," Blatter said. "Jerome Valcke continues to work for FIFA. The problem between Jerome Valcke and Brazil is a problem for FIFA's president, which the president has to solve."

Blatter said he still hasn't made a decision on whether Valcke will remain FIFA's representative working with the Brazilian government. He asked for more time before deciding.

Pele said the meeting was important to help clear the air between the host country and FIFA.

"It was needed to solve all the misunderstandings ahead of the World Cup," he said. "From now on we will move forward with harmony, without any mishaps, and I'm confident that we will host the best World Cup of all time."

With just one year before the Confederations Cup and two before the World Cup, FIFA had expressed concerns over the country's preparations, especially over some infrastructure projects and construction work on some of the stadiums.

Blatter said it was normal for host countries to face stadium delays from time to time, and noted that it had happened before in previous World Cups. He expected Brazil to have all 12 venues ready in time, however.

"FIFA is not worried with the delays," he said.

Blatter also dismissed problems with the exit of Ricardo Teixeira, the embattled former head of Brazilian football who earlier in the week resigned from the Brazilian federation after 23 years in charge. He also resigned as president of the 2014 World Cup local organizing committee and was replaced by 79-year-old former Sao Paulo state governor Jose Maria Marin.

Blatter said the change was "natural and normal."

Teixeira, who remains a FIFA executive committee member, was accused of taking kickbacks from former FIFA marketing partner ISL in the 1990s. Blatter said recently that he will release documents concerning the ISL case, which could implicate the Brazilian official. Teixeira denies any wrongdoing.

The Brazilian government also said it was satisfied with the meeting with Blatter that lasted a little more than an hour.

"The meeting with Dilma was constructive," Rebelo said. "It reaffirmed the common goal of Brazil and FIFA to host a great World Cup, to work together with harmony and cooperation."

Former Brazil striker Ronaldo said it was an "excellent meeting" for the local organizing committee.

"Again we received guarantees that the federal government is focused on the preparations and I have no doubt that we will deliver the best World Cup of all time," the three-time FIFA player of the year said.


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