Issues remain but organisers optimistic Next World Cup in country struggling to cope with crime, cash problems and deadlines JOHANNESBURG // With Fifa's announcement that Sunday's World Cup final is officially sold out, many avid football followers can be found searching the black market in vain for tickets. An oft-overheard question posed by fans around South Africa: "When are we going to get another chance to go to a World Cup final?"
The answer, of course, is in 2014, albeit in Brazil. Yesterday, Ricardo Teixeira, the president of the Brazilian Football Federation and the prime mover in the 20th edition of the sport's most glittering showcase, described to the international news media what can be expected when his homeland hosts the 2014 World Cup. Despite Brazilian organisers missing the deadline to submit financial guarantees regarding the renovation of Sao Paulo's Estadio do Morumbi, as well as the country's rising rate of violent crime and serious transport issues, Teixeira stressed that plans for the country's first World Cup since 1950 are on track.
"There are no problems," Teixeira said at the launch of the tournament's official logo yesterday. "Some of the stadiums have commenced building. We have already defined exactly what's going to be happening in terms of budgets for the construction up until December." Fifa, football's world governing body, approved a preliminary list of venues for the 2014 tournament earlier this year, including projects at Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Cuiaba, Curitiba, Manaus, Porto Alegre and Sao Paulo.
Morumbi now appears to be a serious doubt, however, Teixeira conceded, while construction work at Curitiba is also behind schedule. "If Sao Paulo wants to host the opening game or the competition as a whole, the deadline is getting close," Teixeira said. "Cape Town built [Green Point Stadium] in two-and-a-half years, so we are dangerously close to the limit. The issue with Sao Paulo will have to be solved as quickly as possible.
"We will come up with a definition about what role Sao Paulo will play in the World Cup. Will there be a stadium built or not? How will they participate as a city? "Curitiba stadium is facing some financial constraints, but once financial guarantees are in place, construction will begin." As was the case for the host country at the current World Cup, security concerns exist in Brazil, a country that consistently has one of the highest rates of violent crime per capita in the world.
Teixeira moved quickly to allay fears. "It's not surprising; this is a problem that's not linked to any specific country," he said. "We have sent a huge security group to South Africa, they were here for a few days and they had to analyse the situation and pick on those issues that needed to be sorted. But insecurity is a global problem," he said. The most worrying issue for Teixeira, he said, is the country's underdeveloped transport infrastructure, essential to moving teams, fans and officials around the vast country. "The three main priorities we have are airports, airports, airports," he said.
That was before Jerome Valcke, the secretary general of Fifa, revealed the 2014 World Cup could be divided into four regions of three cities each (Rio de Janiero, Recife, Salvador, Natal and Fortaleza are the other host cities) to limit travel. "Brazil is a continent not just a country, so we may divide it into four pieces, to make sure that fans do not have to [fly] more than one or two hours from one stadium to the other," Valcke said.
He also confirmed that he expected the refereeing system to have changed by the time 2014 arrives, with goal-line technology and additional officials being considered. "I would say that [South Africa] is the final World Cup with the current refereeing system," Valcke told the BBC after being forced to endure what he described as "a bad day" following Frank Lampard's disallowed effort for England against Germany that crossed the goal-line.
"We are talking about a single goal not seen by the referee, which is why we are talking about new technology. But, again, let's see if this system will help or whether giving the referee an additional four eyes will give him the comfort and make duty easier to perform." Romario, the Brazil striker who won the World Cup in 1994, is an ambassador for the 2014 tournament and expressed his elation at the five-time world champions being given the opportunity to play the 20th tournament of the World Cup on home soil.
"I hope it will be a chance to show you the true face of Brazil," he said. "You will see what football means to Brazilians. I am sure the atmosphere will be unprecedented. We can expect a great fiesta. And I hope we become world champions." firstname.lastname@example.org