Brazil and FIFA presidents meet to clear the air

TALES AZZONI AP Sports Writer Published:

SAO PAULO (AP) -- FIFA head Sepp Blatter will meet Brazil's president on Friday to settle differences over preparations for the 2014 World Cup.

Blatter will meet Dilma Rousseff in the capital Brasilia two weeks after FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke made harsh remarks over Brazil's slow preparations, igniting a crisis that dented the relationship between the host country and football's governing body.

Blatter asked for the meeting with Rousseff during his apology to Brazil, hoping the talk will help both sides focus on getting the country ready for the Confederations Cup next year and the World Cup in two years.

"We will discuss the status of preparations and what needs to be done over the next few months to achieve the common goal of FIFA and the Brazilian government," Blatter said in a statement.

Pele will also join Blatter and Rousseff on Friday, as will Brazil Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo, who after Valcke's remarks said Brazil was going to cut ties with the FIFA official in charge of working with the government in the World Cup preparations.

Rebelo later accepted apologies from Valcke, but the secretary general's visit to inspect host cities in Brazil last week was canceled, and it remained unclear if Valcke would remain FIFA's representative to work with the government. Rebelo said that remained FIFA's choice.

FIFA said a decision on a new visit by Valcke would not be made until after Blatter met with Rousseff.

Also on the agenda of the presidents' talk on Friday will likely be a controversial World Cup bill which is under consideration by Congress' lower house.

The sticking point on the bill is the sale of alcohol inside stadiums, which is against the law in Brazil but is a demand by FIFA because Budweiser is a major World Cup sponsor. The bill was approved by a congressional commission last week, but vote on the proposed law at the lower house was delayed on Wednesday because congressmen remained divided on the alcohol text.

In addition to authorizing the sale of alcohol inside stadiums, the bill is important because it gives FIFA the necessary legal and financial guarantees to organize football's showcase event.

Critics are against the proposed law because they say Brazil shouldn't bow to FIFA's demands. FIFA say the country agreed to change its legislation when it was picked as World Cup host in 2007.

Another talking point will likely be the future of Brazilian football after this week's resignation of Ricardo Teixeira, who was also the president of the local World Cup organizing committee.

Teixeira had been head of the Brazilian federation for 23 years, a period marked by success on and off the field but also by allegations of irregularities and corruption locally and abroad. Teixeira remains a member of FIFA's executive committee.

Brazil admits there are delays in the World Cup preparations, especially in infrastructure work and in some stadium constructions, but officials guarantee that the country will be ready in time to host the competitions.

Despite apologizing for Valcke's remarks, Blatter said "time is passing by" and both parties need to keep working hard to make sure Brazil is ready.

This week, a group of about 40 people from FIFA and the local organizing committee ended a seven-day trip to half of the dozen World Cup host cities. The inspection group checked local plans for dealing with traffic, security, fan management, commercial partners, marketing, hospitality and media.

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