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Ricardo Teixeira and the 2014 World Cup

Tim Vickery believes Teixeira does not deserve praise for Brazil's World Cup bid
Marcello Casal Jr/ABr
Last week the milestone of ‘1000 days to the 2014 World Cup’ was passed. Not everyone was celebrating.

In the sports daily ‘Lance!’ Alvaro Oliveira Filho has “no doubt that the opening game of the World Cup will take place on the arranged day and time and in the arranged place. I have no doubt that [the new stadium in Sao Paulo, currently in the early stages of construction] will be ready, full of euphoric supporters anxious for the debut of the Brazil team.

“The problem,” he continues, “is how much more we will have to pay for this - that which the economists very properly refer to as the ‘Brazil cost.’ I prefer to call it the incompetence-cost or the irresponsibility cost.” Earlier in the piece he refers to special new legislation for the tournament, which he interprets as “the government admitting it will pay whatever is necessary to avoid a bigger disgrace - which means hiring companies without a proper tending process, at exorbitant prices, and everything that responsible management condemns.”

He has not even mentioned the big fear - that with public money directed to stadiums and airports, there might not be enough cash, and there probably will not be enough time, for all of the urban transport projects - the area where the 2014 World Cup has the most potential to benefit Brazilian society.

If all of this comes to pass, who is to blame? It is hard to look beyond Ricardo Teixeira, president not only of the CBF but also of the Local Organising Committee. Despite all this accumulation of power, Teixeira was unable to nominate the host cities. Doing so would have a political cost, since it would mean alienating a portion of his power base - the presidents of the state federations whose cities were not chosen to stage matches. And so, unusually, the decision was passed to FIFA. Years were wasted and a historic opportunity has probably been missed.

Teixeira has enemies. But he also has supporters. One line which is frequently used in his favour is that Brazil won the right to stage the 2014 World Cup as a consequence of Teixeira’s hard work behind the scenes.

But just how much hard work was really necessary?

FIFA President Sepp Blatter found himself politically obliged to deliver a World Cup to the African continent, which effectively could only mean South Africa. His plans went awry when Germany just managed to swing the vote to gain 2006. Blatter could not fail in 2010. So he came up with the idea of the rotation principle, by which the World Cup would pass alternatively round the world’s continents. For the first spin of the wheel, 2010, the competition was awarded to Africa - and thus Blatter had made good on his promise.

The rotation principle was all about short term political expediency. It has since died a death. But in order to have any credibility it had to continue for a second spin of the wheel. And so in March 2003 Blatter announced that 2014 would be South America’s turn - almost his only alternative given that the continent which first staged the World Cup had not held the competition since 1978.

Within a matter if days Conmebol, the South American confederation, announced that Brazil was its only candidate - itself an entirely logical decision since at that point, at least, Brazil was the only country able to cope with a 32 team tournament.

True, Colombia later broke ranks and briefly launched a bid of its own. But this was never serious. There was no real aim of unseating Brazil in 2014. Colombia was seeking to protect itself from the rise of neighbour and rival Venezuela, which at the time was investing heavily in stadiums and infra-structure ahead of the 2007 Copa America. The Colombian campaign was successful when they beat the Venezuelans to the right to stage this year’s World Youth Cup, won by Brazil in thrilling style a few weeks ago. And so, come the day in October 2007, Brazil’s was the only name in the hat.

It is hard to see the need for Ricardo Teixeira’s backstage machinations in all this. Any praise he has received comes across as an example of the unfortunate Brazilian habit of trying to be friends with those in power.

Those who line up to praise Teixeira might do well to consider the following - how much better the preparations for the 2014 World Cup might be, and how much more beneficial to society, if the host cities had been chosen and the bulk of the planning was already in place on the day Brazil was awarded the tournament almost four years ago.

 
 

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