By Robbie Blakeley and Ségolène Poirier, Contributing Reporters
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The world football (soccer) governing body, FIFA, and the Brazil Ministry of Sport announced that the Brazilian government will have a permanent member within the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) of the 2014 World Cup, as a measure to help avoid problems and speed up preparations.
Luís Fernandes, who joined the Ministry of Sport last January and reportedly is a trusted ally of President Dilma Rousseff, is set to be the new sheriff of the government inside LOC. He will work alongside 79-year-old Jose Maria Marin, the current head of the CBF following Ricardo Teixeira’s resignation in March.
The move was explained as a way to limit any problems that could hinder preparations for the sporting mega event due in just over two years. By many reports, including the some Brazilian press, the country’s ability to host such an massive event is in question, and this move is intended to turn the situation around.
Fernandes will act as co-coordinator of all World Cup preparations. He is described by those who know him as “pragmatic” and fitting the profile that Rousseff wants from those in her charge.
The decision announced last Wednesday, May 8th, in a meeting which also confirmed alcoholic drinks will be available in stadiums for the duration of the competition. It was the first between the FIFA leaders and the LOC since the controversy stirred up by FIFA general secretary Jerôme Valcke, when he suggested that Brazil needed a “kick up the backside”.
Fernandes’ presence is already evident. He was in Zurich locked in discussion with the FIFA summit for three days prior to the announcement of the new measure.
Former FIFA World Player of the year Ronaldo Fenômeno, now acting as an adviser to the LOC, reiterated the importance of everyone sticking together at this time of transition.
“I think the most important thing after this long day was that the decision was taken together, like a united team. A team that is not united wins with difficulty,” he said.
It was also decided at the meeting that FIFA would meet with the LOC every six weeks, or at a maximum every eight weeks, until the World Cup kicks off in June 2014. The point of the meetings is to seek solutions to problems and most importantly keep the lines of communication open.
The first one will take place in Brazil within the next six weeks. The discussion finished amicably, with both sides – the LOC and the FIFA summit agreeing to move forward together. Joseph Blatter, the head of FIFA, confirmed to the assembled press: “I would like to say there are no problems of discord. Everything has been resolved.”