Valcke fears for World Cup pitches

EXCLUSIVE: The Fifa chief is worried about the state of the turf in Brasilia and has urged Brazil to learn lessons from hosting the Confederations Cup
By Greg Stobart in Rio de Janeiro

Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke has expressed his fear that pitches in Brazil will not be ready to host the World Cup.

The 12 host cities for next year’s finals must hand over their grounds to Fifa by mid-January in 2014 as preparations crank up for the tournament with the Confederations Cup well under way.

The build-up to the World Cup have been marred by construction delays with the stadiums in Brasilia, Salvador and the Maracana in Rio De Janeiro struggling to be ready for the Confederations Cup games.

Fifa have publicly voiced concern about the construction timetable for the six hosts not being used for the pre-World Cup tournament and now Valcke has highlighted the possibility of the pitches - a common problem in new stadiums - not being strong enough to stage multiple matches.

Valcke has been pleased by the start to the pre-World Cup tournament but admits Fifa are dealing with teething issues and that Brazil must take lessons from this summer into next year.

“I have to admit that what we have seen over the last few days is amazing,” Valcke told Goal at the FT/IFA Business of Football Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

“It’s the best from Brazil and the best from the tournament games. The only one thing different we need for the World Cup [to succeed] is a bit more time between the delivery of the stadium and the preparation. It will need more time to be ready for the World Cup.

“For example, the pitch in Brasilia was fine for one game but not for many games. We will be working with the cities to make sure that we have the best pitches when the competition starts. It’s nothing new, it was exactly the same in South Africa.”

Valcke also highlighted the legacy of the games, with Brazil expected to invest as much as €10.6 billion into the country’s infrastructure by the start of next summer’s competition.

“The legacy is something that’s more than just after the World Cup - it’s for the next 20 years of the country,” Valcke added.

“It’s mainly about the change of infrastructure in the country that will help the day-to-day life of the people in the 12 cities, as you can see that already in Rio.

“Organising the World Cup here will improve all the facilities for the football teams in Brazil and for the quality of football in the country.

“There are two different levels: one legacy is at the football level, to develop football around the world. The other is for the country, to move it from one level to the next one, which is exactly what has happened in South Africa.

“You can see that in South Africa, which before the World Cup and after the World Cup is two different countries.

“The World Cup pushes the country to make more investment in a shorter period of time. Ordinarily, you would expect a country like Brazil to do this work over 20 years but in Brazil it’s happening immediately.

“It’s even more true for Rio where they have the Olympics, so they have to do far more in four years than they were expecting to do. It’s a way to kick off programs. The commitment of the government is going far beyond the World Cup itself.”