Will Brazil be ready? It'll be close but they'll get there
Friday, 16th March 2012 at 10:04am
As the 2014 Fifa World Cup Brazil draws ever closer fears are growing from a number of quarters about whether or not the host nation will be ready on time.
Fifa secretary-general Jerome Valcke recently suggested that Brazil need a "good kick up the arse" and suggested that the country was more concerned with winning the world cup rather than hosting it.
Harsh but perhaps fair, Valcke subsequently issued an apology after Brazil refused to deal with him and now Sepp Blatter is to hold talks with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Pele today (March 16) about the current crisis brewing between Fifa and the 2014 World Cup hosts.
Why Fifa believe that Sepp "crisis, what is this crisis" Blatter is the best man to deal with this spat is beyond the comprehension of a mere mortal like me but, then again, why am I surprised?
After all, this is the same Fifa who thought it would be a good idea to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup finals and believed the banning of snoods was more important than other pressing issues like goal line technology; they have a long track record baffling decisions.
But I digress from the matter in hand: will Brazil be ready in time?
There have been widespread reports that construction work on some of the venues is running behind schedule and there are further concerns that the planned infrastructure upgrades that were promised as part of Brazil's bid might not be ready.
Danny Jordaan, the man behind South Africa's successful hosting of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, has weighed into the issue now, reminding the 2014 Fifa World Cup Brazil Organising Committee (LOC) that "time is running out" if the hosts want to stage a tournament that will be remembered for all the right reasons.
Fifa are clearly worried and it's understandable why they are. Should the World Cup not be ready it will seriously impact on the vast sums of money it generates - tax free - during the month-long football fiesta.
It's important to remember that Fifa is a not-for-profit organization, however, and that expanding the broad appeal of the game is its motivation. It just so happens to be a not-for-profit organization that is sitting on more than $1.2 billion of cash reserves which one can only assume is for a rainy day.
I imagine it rains quite a lot in Zurich...
Perhaps Valcke could have delivered his criticism more tactfully, but he probably hit the nail on the head with his "kick up the arse" comment.
That said, however, he probably shouldn't worry too much about things being completed on time and with good reason.
LOC have assured the world that things will be ready on time - something they are duty bound to say - but if history has shown us one thing it is that these events make it to the start line on time even if it is by the skin of their teeth.
The International Olympic Committee feared the worst when preparations for the Athens Olympic Games were well behind schedule but they made it in time for the opening ceremony even if two of their athletes stole the show by staging a motorbike crash so they could miss a drugs test.
Even more disorganised than Athens was Delhi ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Venues weren't complete, roofs and bridges collapsed and the athlete's village was an absolute shambles just days before the Games began but, like Athens, begin on time they did.
So history is on Brazil's side and recent developments - namely the resignation of Ricardo Teixeira, the former head of the Brazilian Football Federation (CBF) and LOC - can only be a good thing.
Brazilian legend Romario certainly believes so: "Today we can celebrate," Romario posted on his Twitter and Facebook pages. "We exterminated a cancer from Brazilian football. Finally, Ricardo Teixeira resigned."
A member of Fifa's infamous Executive Committee (ExCo) - the same band of merry men who voted for Qatar despite the Fifa technical committee declaring it the most problematic - he is alleged to have received kick backs from Fifa's former marketing partner ISL during the 1990s but resigned on the grounds of ill health.
It's also important to remember that ExCo have lost one member - Mohamed bin Hammam - to a life time ban for bribery, seen Jack Warner stand down before facing corruption charges and have had several others implicated in the ISL allegations plus the undercover investigations by The Sunday Times.
These men aren't wanted in the game by the majority of football fans around the world so his resignation can only be a good thing for the game, for Brazilian football and for Brazil's preparations for the World Cup finals.
It's a shame that it was because of ill health rather than being found guilty of corruption as it would be wrong to wish ill on him (it's not like he's murdered anybody, is it?) but it's at least one more down, several more to go.
The appointment of Jose Maria Marin, an experienced politician, lawyer and former professional footballer, has been viewed as positive in Brazil and it's hoped that things will get moving so we don't have another last minute panic.
The 2014 Brazil World Cup should be a fantastic month-long celebration of football in the country that gave birth to the "beautiful game", and enjoyed by some of the world's most passionate football fans and let's cross our fingers that it is especially with two untested countries hosting the following two finals.
At times like this, it's comforting remember, history has shown us things like this always work out in the end.