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Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke apologises over Brazil World Cup comments


FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke apologised yesterday for remarking that Brazil needed a "kick up the backside" to be ready for the 2014 World Cup as the government formally declared him unwelcome to visit for talks on the tournament next week.

Valcke's comment on Friday angered the South American soccer power, and prompted Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo to write to FIFA president Sepp Blatter to say they no longer wanted to deal with the Frenchman, who was due to visit on March 12.

After publicising its decision to write to Blatter, the government revealed a note from Valcke apologising for his remarks.

In the note, a copy of which has been seen by Reuters, Valcke said his remark had became much harsher in translation from French to Portuguese and only meant "speed things up".

He did, however, add there was "certainly an air of worry at FIFA" about the slow progress of tournament preparations.

Rebelo said in his letter to Blatter:

"The form and content of (Valcke's) remarks go beyond acceptable standards of harmonious coexistence between a sovereign state like Brazil and a centenary international organisation like FIFA.

"Faced with this fact, the Brazilian government can no longer accept Mr Jerome Valcke as an interlocutor in its dealings with FIFA during preparations for this World Cup."

Rebelo had already described Valcke's remarks as "offensive" and "unacceptable" at a news conference on Saturday.

FIFA has criticised Brazil for slow progress preparing stadiums and infrastructure and a delay in passing laws on the sale of alcoholic drinks at venues and for cheap tickets for low-income sectors of society.

On his last visit to Brazil in January, Valcke had praised progress at venues he visited.

Although apologising to Rebelo, Valcke described himself as the person ultimately responsible for the World Cup and that he was under pressure to ensure Brazil delivered the finals in good time.

He went on to tell Rebelo that he was "confident there is no problem that cannot be overcome with the efforts of FIFA, the local organising committee and the Brazilian authorities."

Brazil was FIFA's only choice for the 2014 tournament and its success was "not only one of my duties but also my biggest wish," Valcke added.