AP Interview: Rebelo downplays FIFA's concerns

MARCO SIBAJA Associated Press Published:

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) -- Brazil's sports minister says FIFA's concerns with preparations for the 2014 World Cup are the result of cultural differences and he is confident the country is capable of hosting a great tournament.

Aldo Rebelo said in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday that Brazilians have their own way of overcoming challenges and Europeans don't understand it because of these cultural differences.

"There are two ways of looking at this problem," Rebelo said. "The way the Brazilians see the challenges and the way the Europeans see them. It's not a conflict of information or a division, there is a certain conflict of cultures. The Europeans don't quite understand the culture of the tropics."

Rebelo said the relationship with FIFA remains cordial despite the spat with Secretary General Jerome Valcke, but he won't comment on Valcke's return as the representative to work with the government until football's governing body makes it official. FIFA President Sepp Blatter said in a statement to the AP this week that Valcke will keep his duties as the World Cup organizer.

Rebelo said Brazilians may not seem as organized as the Europeans, but they will always deliver on time. He used Carnival as an example.

He said that if a European tourist visits a samba school just a week before Brazil's Carnival parades, he or she probably won't believe that the disorganization seen then will ultimately turn into a precise and harmonious event which highlights the Carnival celebrations in Rio de Janeiro and other parts of Brazil.

Rebelo also used Carnival as an example that Brazil already has the ability to host big events.

"An event with international notoriety such as Carnival just happened in Brazil, and in at least three cities -- Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Recife -- the number of international and national tourists were greater than what is expected in the World Cup, and everything went on virtually without problems," Rebelo said.

Rebelo said the renovation work at the 12 host cities was within schedule, and dismissed problems approving the World Cup bill which gives FIFA legal and financial guarantees to organize the tournament.

"The bill will be approved without major problems," he said, a day after congressmen delayed voting on it because the government failed to gather enough support in Congress.

Rebelo acknowledged that the proposed law likely won't be sanctioned by the end of March as wanted by FIFA, but it should go into effect in April.

The minister left up in the air Brazil's position regarding Valcke's return as the FIFA representative, but said the relationship between the governing body and the host country will likely remain one of cooperation and cordiality.

"I don't think there will be any more complaints in the relationship between Brazil and FIFA," he said.

Rebelo said young Brazilian players Neymar and Lucas will allow Brazil to win the World Cup at home.

"I respect the football played by Argentina, Germany, Spain and the tradition of Italian football," he said. "But will all modesty, I have to say that Brazil is the favorite to win the World Cup. Of course, Argentina has (Lionel) Messi, but he doesn't have a teammate in attack like Neymar has Lucas."