By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – FIFA president Sepp Blatter is set to visit Brazil next month to check the progress the twelve cities are making with their respective stadiums. The former lawyer, 72, is particularly concerned about the state of affairs in São Paulo, where none of the current stadiums meet the required standards.
Plans were supposed to be underfoot to build a new, 65,000 seat stadium for the World Cup. The brand new arena would also serve as the home of Brazil’s biggest and most famous club, the Corinthians, who would move from their dated Pacembeu stadium. The project is expected to cost around R$200 million. Brazilian sports minister Orlando Silva said last week that São Paulo should be treated as a “special case”.
“Obviously, São Paulo has to be treated differently for one reason – São Paulo has chosen to build a different stadium. It is an extreme situation,” Silva told Paulista daily Folha de São Paulo.
However, Brazil’s commercial capital is not the only city building a stadium from scratch, and such excuses are unlikely to wash with Blatter. As reported in as recently as August, if the number of host cities is reduced from twelve to ten, there is a distinct possibility that São Paulo will not make the cut, an unthinkable notion for the nation’s largest metropolis.
Meanwhile, Giovanni Bisignani, president of IATA, the International Air Transport Association, warned that the current state of Brazilian airports could bring ‘shame’ on the country’s preparations for the 2014 World Cup. He went on to state that improvements need to be made to Rio’s own Antônio Carlos Jobim Airport, better known as Galeão, in light of the city being awarded the 2016 Olympic Games as well.
“The clock is ticking and I do not see much progress,” he said. “Of the twenty largest domestic airports in Brazil, thirteen cannot accommodate the demands.”
On the field, things are not looking much better for the Selecão. As hosts of the 2014 competition, Brazil does not have to qualify. It can use the next three and a half years to try out some unfamiliar faces as coach Mano Menezes begins the mammoth task of deciding which 23 players he will entrust to bring the Jules Rimet trophy back to Brazilian soil.
Menezes bowed to pressure from the Brazilian media and recalled fan favorite – Ronaldinho Gaucho. But, as was so often the case in the two years former coach Dunga spent on the playmaker, he failed to impress.
Indeed, the closest he got to current world number one, Lionel Messi, was in a pre-match hug. The little Argentine won the game 1-0 for his country with a mesmeric dribble and finish in extra time. With that, Menezes’ 100 percent record as national team coach came skidding to an abrupt halt.
Of course, there is ample time for the coach to tinker and tailor his squad. However, the defeat, coupled with the fact that it was to their greatest rivals, leaves the current outlook on the country’s World Cup preparations far from rosy.