Brazil’s 2014 World Cup party began in earnest today but against a background of bickering between organisers and the government, concerns over preparations and a protest by those who claim the tournament is adversely affecting the livelihoods of thousands.
A crowd of several hundred people protested outside the qualifying draw taking place at the Marina da Gloria in Rio de Janeiro.
The protest’s organisers said in a statement: “While the 20million dollar party for choosing the qualifying groups for the 2014 World Cup is happening, thousands of the city’s residents are being removed from their homes in preparation for the tournament, street vendors are prevented from working and the vast majority of the population will not have enough money to pay for tickets to the World Cup.”
The Brazilian government have not seen eye to eye with the local organising committee headed by Ricardo Teixeira, the FIFA executive committee member and head of the CBF, the Brazilian football confederation.
Teixeira, who is notoriously anti-British, has even excluded Pele from a role in the World Cup, and the government instead have appointed the legendary player as their 2014 ambassador.
Pele has shrugged off the snub, telling reporters: “If I’m not invited into your house I don’t go in. Ricardo Teixeira is president of the confederation - he decides who he wants to invite or not. He doesn’t invite me and if he doesn’t invite me I don’t go – that’s the reason.”
Brazil’s sports minister Orlando Silva said Pele would be their face of the tournament.
He said: “FIFA and the local organising committee are responsible for organising the event. I had a meeting with Mr Blatter yesterday when he repeated FIFA’s belief that it is proper for the CBF chairman to also be chairman of the organising committee.
“Mr Teixeira and his organisation is a decision made by FIFA. The government will deal with public affairs.
“Pele is an iconic figure and we want Pele’s face to be the image of the Brazil World Cup.”
There is also the unthinkable prospect of the Brazil team performing badly on home soil – Pele called their recent Copa America campaign “a disaster” after they won only one game during the tournament and lost to Paraguay on penalties.
Pele said: “The Brazilian people are worried. But what happened during the tournament was not because of the coach [Mano Menezes].
“Maybe it was a lack of practising penalties, but Brazil played well against Paraguay and on another day they could easily have won the shoot-out that knocked them out. The coach has shown that he deserves more time.”