Brazil to cut ties with Valcke after criticism

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By TALES AZZONI, Associated Press

SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazil's sports minister criticized "unacceptable" comments by FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke about slow preparations for the 2014 World Cup and said Saturday the government plans to cut ties with him.

Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo said "the government can no longer have the secretary general as a representative" and called for FIFA to assign another official.

On Saturday, Valcke said Rebelo should address the problems and called the move juvenile.

Ahead of a visit to Brazil in a week, Valcke sparked the exchange by sending a blunt message to organizers on Friday: "You have to push yourself, kick your (backside)."

Valcke said "things are not working in Brazil" and "not a lot is moving" with stadium building and infrastructure renovation just two years before the World Cup and a year before the Confederations Cup.

"We have always had a cordial attitude toward everyone from FIFA here in Brazil," Rebelo said. "We can't accept to hear such an offensive comment. He can't say something like that about a country. It's unacceptable."

Rebelo said he understands Valcke will keep his duties as FIFA's secretary general and work closely with local organizers, but the Brazilian government will not welcome him when he comes to the country.

"We will continue to have a relationship with FIFA and we will continue receiving them well," he said. "We are just expressing the position of the Brazilian government (in relation to Valcke)."

Valcke accused Rebelo of making excuses and ignoring the problems faced by organizers.

"Why doesn't he deal with the issue?" Valcke told reporters Saturday at a meeting of soccer rule-makers in England. "If (I'm) the problem because nothing has happened over the five years ... because I made, wow, one comment saying things are not working well and I for once said exactly what is happening in Brazil — if the result is they don't want to talk to me any more, I'm not the guy they want to work with, that's a bit puerile."

Rebelo said Valcke's comments contradict FIFA's own evaluation of the country's preparations after a visit in January.

"The secretary general made an evaluation that does not correspond to the facts or the reality," Rebelo said. "We have to remember that the World Cup will be in Brazil because Brazil was chosen to host it. We didn't impose this nor were we drawn (in a lottery) for this."

The minister said Brazil will inform FIFA president Sepp Blatter of the decision to have Valcke replaced as the person responsible for working with the government in the country's preparations.

Valcke's comments Friday came just a few days after a congressional commission in Brazil delayed voting on a key bill regulating the World Cup and setting the legal framework that gives FIFA the necessary guarantees to organize soccer's showcase event in 2014.

Valcke said he was frustrated with the "endless discussions" in Congress about the proposed law.

Congress remained divided on some issues, including the sale of alcoholic beverages inside stadiums, which is against the law in Brazil. FIFA demands the country change its law because Budweiser is a major World Cup sponsor.

FIFA said Brazil agreed to its demands when it was awarded the 2014 tournament in 2007. But the proposed law has been generating controversy, with critics saying it gives too much power to soccer's governing body.

Rebelo said the bill is likely to be approved next week and guaranteed the country will be ready to host the World Cup. He said 42 of the 51 infrastructure projects will be delivered by 2013, and most of the stadium construction was on schedule.

Next week, a team of nearly 40 people from FIFA and the local organizing committee will inspect six of the 12 host cities. The other six will host the Confederations Cup in 2013 and were inspected last year.

The World Cup city of Porto Alegre is in danger of being dropped. Renovation on the Beira-Rio stadium stopped more than eight months ago after a lack of financial guarantees.

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AP Sports Writer Rob Harris in Bagshot, England contributed to this report.

Follow Tales Azzoni at http://twitter.com/tazzoni and Rob Harris at http://twitter.com/RobHarrisUK

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