Time ticking on Brazil SWC
Sport24 columnist Mark Gleeson (File)
It was an event that went largely unreported in this country last week but was an extraordinary juncture in the run up to the next Soccer World Cup.
It was an indaba of Brazil’s top government ministers with FIFA in Zurich at which they set a time-table and targets to ensure the successful delivery of the 2014 tournament - now just over 24 months away.
That preparations have fallen are so far behind, and the hosting of the next World Cup is in serious crisis, was the underlying need for the summit and all the resolutions of action that came out of it.
FIFA are at the end of their tether. Secretary general Jerome Valcke’s recent efforts to cajole the Brazilians to move quicker by insulting them did not seem to get the message through. Instead they tried to turn it back on him, causing a quasi-diplomatic incident, even though it is clear exasperation had led to such extremes.
Coverage of the crisis has been limited which only highlights the double standards when compared with the scrutiny South Africa had to go through before the 2010 finals.
Brazil has not born the scepticism and conjecture South Africa was subjected to, yet is patently much further behind in its progress.
First let’s get one thing clear. Organising a World Cup in South Africa was no picnic for world football’s governing body. The South Africans lacked competence and had too many free loaders in key roles, but they did have willingness on their part. FIFA had to send experienced German football administrator Horst Schmidt to sit in Johannesburg as an overseer and crack the whip to get things done.
But at the end of the day it proved a spectacular success, not only because of the brilliant stadiums, but also the brand new roads and airports. There was a lot of turmoil behind the scenes, but a spirit of seeking to achieve.
Brazil, by all accounts, just flounders in red tape, political intrigue, self-serving officials and an arrogance that comes with being five-time world champions. FIFA can only look back on the South African experience with nostalgic affection.
The funny thing with all these tournaments is that the football does eventually get played at the right time and in front of passionate crowds, and for television audiences worldwide. That’s the beauty of the World Cup. But the sweat behind the scenes can be back-breaking.
Brazil, positioned now as a future world economic giant and with its massive population, has to scramble to build airports, roads and stadiums.
Time is ticking and it will go down to the wire. But it is funny how their obvious lack of diligence is rarely highlighted. South Africa had great satisfaction in showing the world that their Afro-pessimism was misplaced. The country never got a fair shake from the expert commentators before the tournament and still no-one is out there comparing how better SA’s preparations were with two years to go. South Africa, though, was constantly compared to the Germans, who hosted the 2006 finals. There is a smug satisfaction now at how things are struggling along, but at the end of the day we can only hope Brazil also get it right on the night.Mark Gleeson is a respected television commentator and Editorial Director of Mzanzi Football.
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