Football: No offers to replace Brazil for 2014 - FIFA

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) - FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke on Monday insisted football's world governing body had received no offers from any country to stand in as hosts for the 2014 World Cup with Brazil racing to be ready in time.

"I have never received any official offer from countries around the world to stage the World Cup in 2014," Mr Valcke said in Rio.

Mr Valcke dismissed fears that Brazil, which is hosting the Confederations Cup dress rehearsal event and has been beset by popular protests against the multi billion dollar cost of hosting the Confederations Cup, the World Cup and the Olympics in 2016, would not make the date as it races to overhaul infrastructure and ready 12 venues across the country.

"We have seen an amazing amount of work delivered for the Confederations Cup," said Mr Valcke, while stressing once again that for the World Cup "we have to be ready on time - the Confederations Cups is different from the World Cup."

And he underlined Fifa's insistence that venues "must be ready for the end of December 2013," allowing logistical final touches to be put in place thereafter ahead of a June 2014 kickoff.

Mr Valcke, who caused a storm last year when he said Brazil needed a "kick up the backside" to get World Cup preparations on track, said the Confederations Cup had been a great success.

He also insisted it was not for Fifa to pass public judgement on the political situation in Brazil, where more than a million people have protested against poor public services and corruption.

Mr Valcke compared the Confederations Cup, a competition for just eight teams compared with 32 for the World Cup, to the Brazil side, who have hit form to reach the semi-finals after the legendary Pele said they were not good enough to win the event.

"When the Cup started people in the Brazilian team were asking about the qualities of the team and Neymar. But coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has found his eleven, he has been able to bring talents together and build a team. That is exactly what we have been doing.

"The work which was delivered in the last few days (up to the June 15 kickoff) up was just amazing," Valcke said.

"It was a challenge but the challenge went well." Brazilian Minister of Sport Aldo Rebelo said Brazil had a "special commitment to the World Cup and will look to host a celebration as bright as the world and the country expects it to be."

Looking even further ahead to include the 2016 Olympics which Rio will host he said that the hope was those two events would improve life for the people of Brazil.

"We want the World Cup and the Olympics to be a means of improving living conditions for the people and providing opportunities for the country."

Fifa, along with the Brazilian government, has been the focus of some of the popular anger during street protests in the past fortnight owing to the perception it comes to town, acts as circus ringmaster and then walks off with hefty profits.

But Mr Valcke said that image was wrong.

"I am not ashamed about what we are doing, we are doing well. We are just organising an event - a major sporting event in the world.

"Yes, we organised a Cup in Brazil but with Brazil.

"We are spending half a billion (dollars) on accommodation. We are supporting our own costs. We are making money but we have a number of responsibilities. Fifa is a non profitable institution." And he insisted Fifa actually helps to bring in money.

"We are using our money to develop football because that is our obligation to do so," Mr Valcke told reporters adding Fifa had "the most transparent" accounting system available and that its staff were not spending their time being ferried aound in luxury limousines.

Mr Valcke, Mr Rebelo and the local organising committee revealed that the World Cup should provide at least temporary employment for some 24,000 people.

Although Braziians are outraged at the cost of new stadiums and the long, drawn out and costly process of renovating Rio's fabled Maracana stadium Mr Rebelo said such investment was necessary.

"We could never modernise Brazilian football without having the proper stadiums," said Mr Rebelo.

Mr Rebelo also noted there were some unquantifiable benefits from hosting the event.

"This is much more than a sports event - Germany (in 2006) wanted an event that would project an image of a reunited Germany, leaving behind for good all the ghosts from the trauma and the tragedy of war, a Germany presenting itself to the world free of memories and stigma that German people do not deserve."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.