FIFA in Brazil -- a long and bumpy road
The return of the World Cup to Brazil after 64 years was heralded as a triumph by world governing body FIFA, but enthusiasm has turned to bitter recrimination amid the mass protests that have swept the country.
Here, AFP Sports recounts the story of what has happened since Brazil was awarded the right to host next year's tournament.
Brazil, the only candidate, is officially designated the host country of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter sounds the alarm concerning the construction and renovation of the host stadiums. "It's not advancing. It's not advancing very, very quickly," he says, declaring that Brazil is "behind schedule" compared to where South Africa was three years prior to the 2010 tournament.
A bill is launched seeking to limit FIFA's jurisdiction over the tournament, particularly concerning the ownership of image rights.
FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke, the governing body's main point of contact with the organizers, urges the country's authorities to pick up the pace of work to improve Brazil's infrastructure.
In front of the press in London, Valcke calls on Brazil to give itself "a kick up the backside" and move forward with infrastructure work. Brasilia is outraged and demands that FIFA changes its point of contact. A Senate commission cancels a hearing with Valcke and its president says: "If it was down to me, he'd get a kick in his fleshy bits." One of President Dilma Rousseff's principal advisers calls the Frenchman "a low-life." The man himself brands Brazil's reaction "a bit puerile".
FIFA nonetheless has to make amends, and after Valcke expresses regret that his remarks were misinterpreted, Blatter apologizes to the Brazilian government.
Two former Brazil greats, Romario (who has become a politician) and Ronaldo (who is a member of the organising committee) question the words used by Valcke but defend the substance of what he said.
The General Law of the World Cup, which FIFA has insisted upon since 2007, is promulgated by the president. But there is a sticking point: the sale of alcohol inside stadiums, which is forbidden in Brazil but insisted upon by FIFA, one of whose biggest sponsors is an American brewer. It will be permitted during the Confederations Cup and the World Cup, but the law's wording frustrates FIFA, which must negotiate with individual federal states that are free to disregard it.
The law also approves price reductions for certain categories of people -- students, senior citizens and people in social programs -- which is against FIFA's initial wishes.
The second leg of South America's Copa Libertadores descends into chaos in Sao Paulo, with fights in the changing rooms, accusations of violence against the Brazilian police, and the suspension of the match at half-time. "What has happened is a warning for the organizers of the World Cup," says Blatter.
There is an embarrassing muddle a few days before a friendly game between Brazil and England is due to mark the full re-opening of Rio de Janeiro's renovated Maracana stadium. A local judge, citing security concerns, says the match cannot take place, only for the Rio authorities to scramble an appeal. The match at the mythical venue eventually goes ahead, ending in a 2-2 draw, but Valcke admits the incident caused him a certain amount of "anxiety."
Brazil is rocked by a spate of huge demonstrations that culminate on Thursday when more than a million protesters take to the streets in the country's principle cities. Their initial motive, the rejection of mass transit price hikes, transforms into wide-ranging social demands relating to the $15 billion (11 billion euros) invested by the government in the organization of the Confederations Cup and the World Cup.
FIFA's demands -- expropriation, the limiting of trade near stadiums etc. -- crystallize local resentment and Blatter inflames the situation on Tuesday when he says that "football is stronger than people's dissatisfaction."
FIFA is symbolically and physically targeted during the protests, such as when two of its minibuses are pelted with rocks outside its hotel in Salvador on Thursday.
"I hope this doesn't last until 2014," says Valcke, quoted by the website of the daily O Estado de Sao Paulo. "Brazil needs to resolve this problem. FIFA has nothing to do with this."
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