By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – São Paulo, Brazil’s largest metropolis and home to some 20 million people, is the city facing the most severe problems as the clock counts down on the nation’s 2014 World Cup preparations. Despite being home to three major teams; São Paulo FC, Corinthians and Palmeiras – FIFA, the world football governing body, has deemed that the city’s stadiums are not up to scratch.
Morumbi, the city’s main stadium and home of São Paulo FC, is capable of holding over 70,000 fans. The huge arena had originally been slated to host the competition’s opening game, but in June it was excluded from being part of the World Cup because the city missed a crucial deadline to present financial guarantees that the venue would be renovated. Brasília and Belo Horizonte are now reported to be the two cities vying for the honor.
As Pacaembu, spiritual home of Corinthians, can only provide shade over 13,000, the city has been forced into building a new stadium, which will then become Corinthians’ new home after the World Cup. But if this new plan also fails to get off the ground, FIFA will exclude São Paulo from the tournament entirely, which could mean missing out on a projected R$3 billion from tourism, according to Bloomberg Business Week.
Caio Luiz de Carvalho, who is playing a prominent role in São Paulo’s World Cup organizing committee, and is also president of the city’s tourism industry, is adamant that his city will be part of the World Cup spectacle in 2014. “São Paulo won’t be kept out of the Cup,” he said on November 28th of this year.
Ricardo Teixeira, president of the Brazilian Football Confederation, has restated his desire for São Paulo to hold the opening ceremony and match following talks with São Paulo state governor Alberto Goldman and mayor Alberto Kassab.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter and general secretary Jerome Valcke are set to give the green light to São Paulo’s plans to build a brand new, state of the art stadium, when they visit the city next month.
The ground, which will be known as the Itaquera stadium, will hold 65,000 fans and will come with all the facilities a top modern stadium requires, such as executive boxes and a retracting roof, as well as the possibility of under-soil heating. The Corinthians club released a statement last week saying they will deliver their funding package for financing the venue once FIFA has signed off on the agreement.
Teixeira said he was confident that Corinthians could provide the necessary financial guarantees. “A large part of the financial settlement has already been settled,” he said.
The state of São Paulo is putting no money into the building of the Itaquera; the entire project is being funded by Corinthians, meaning the city’s hopes and dreams are on the shoulders of a football club.
Paulistas now face an anxious wait before Blatter and Valcke arrive to give the building the go ahead; if not, São Paulo could be kissing the World Cup goodbye.