Soccerex Roundup - Valcke, Brazil 2014 Talk World Cup; Goal-Line Technology Debated

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(WFI) Soccerex opens in Rio de Janeiro with all eyes on FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke.
Jerome Valcke addresses Soccerex. (WFI/Phil de Wit)

The Frenchman found himself in the lion’s den Monday after sparking a scandal earlier this year when he criticized Brazil’s preparations for the 2014 World Cup with harsh words, including his infamous "kick up the arse" comment.

But this time Valcke managed to avoid controversy, though he subtly pointed out some weak spots in the process of delivering the tournament. 

According to the FIFA No. 2, work related to infrastructure, such as airport renovation, improvement of public transport and hospitality arrangements are lagging behind.

Brazil is spending around $15 billion for the World Cup, which includes everything from stadiums to new bus lanes, metro lines and airport extensions.

In one city Valcke declined to name, there are "17,000 hotel bedrooms and a 45,000 capacity stadium,” he said, referring to the work that still must be done to receive football supporters from all over the world.

It's estimated that some 500,000 overseas tourists will visit the country, 200,000 more than South Africa welcomed in 2010. 

Valcke is fresh off an inspection tour through Brazil, visiting the 12 host cities of the World Cup. Six of those cities need to be ready next summer to stage the 2013 Confederations Cup. Some will be ready this year; others only next year, he said, referring to the stadium in Salvador and Rio's renovated Maracanã.

Optimism from LOC

Elsewhere at Soccerex, the Brazilian perspective on the progress being made towards 2014 was more optimistic. In a session with former football star Bebeto and Ricardo Trade, both members of the Local Organizing Committee, doubts about a possible failure were far away. 
Ronaldo makes an appearance. (WFI/Phil de Wit)

Trade emphasized all the work that is on its way in the different parts of the country. The legacy of the World Cup for Brazil is in the making, he stressed, with all the different governing bodies working on the same team.

For Bebeto, the development of training grounds in the host cities was an important factor as he remembered the bad quality of the grass in his times. On a map of Rio de Janeiro, stage of the final in 2014, several places were indicated as future training grounds for visiting teams. 

"The quality of these centers has to be good," he said, "because the name of our country is at stake.” 

"Planning for Success"

In another session, titled "Planning for Success", different stakeholders discussed the right strategy to organize a successful tournament and to win more supporters for the beautiful game. For Michael Brown, CEO of the LOC of the 2015 Asian Cup, it's all about convincing his countrymen in Australia that football is truly a top-tier sport.

In Australia, football is only the third sport in terms of popularity. Brown stressed that the multicultural character of Australian society, with many Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants and football fans, could give the Asian Cup and football in general a boost in his country by 2015.

Goal-Line Technology

Controversial subjects were also on the agenda of the annual international football business convention, among them the use of goal-line technology. FIFA has approved two systems to be tested next month during the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan. 
The debate over goal-line technology. (WFI/Phil de Wit)

One of the participants in a Monday debate was Vitor Bahia, former goalie of Barcelona and FC Porto. According to Bahia, the use of GLT should have been introduced much earlier. A goal is the most essential part of the game, he argued, and any doubts of its regularity should be taken away. The goal line technology will help referees to become more professional, he added. 

Matt Lorenzo, Soccerex’s head of media, argued otherwise. Football needs the human hand, he said. 

Paul Hawkins, inventor of Hawk-Eye, one of the companies that developed a GLT system, admitted the technology could not and would not eliminate all room for referee error, but that's not a reason not to try.

"Football is a good enough story on its own,” he said, "and the use of technology at the goal line won’t change that."

By INSIDER's Phil de Wit in Rio de Janeiro

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Brazil 2014