Rio de Janeiro – Despite being played against a backdrop of huge and frequently violent demonstrations, the 2013 Confederations Cup has been the “best ever”, Fifa president Sepp Blatter declared.
The Brazilian national team tackle Spain in the final tomorrow, but the tournament is likely to be remembered for coinciding with the worst social unrest in Brazil for 20 years.
The host country has been rocked by nationwide street protests for more than two weeks, as hundreds of thousands of citizens demand better social services and an end to rampant corruption.
They are also questioning why the country is investing $15 billion in the Confederations Cup and next year’s World Cup when social programmes such as education and health are underfunded.
Many protests have culminated in violent clashes between protesters and police, who have used tear gas and rubber bullets, but Blatter said football had risen above the trouble.
“When we have a look on the pitch of football, it was easy to say that it was the best Confederations Cup that we have ever organised,” he said during a press conference in Rio de Janeiro yesterday.
“The tournament was played in a situation where there was definitely social unrest, with protests and manifestations, but finally, the football has played a positive part here, by giving emotion.
“Definitely football is going out from this competition with a clear message: Yes, it was a good competition, and we are happy to be back here next year in the Fifa World Cup with the 32 teams and 64 matches.”
In response to the protests, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has announced plans for a plebiscite on political reform.
Blatter said her proposals were a sign of football’s capacity to spark social change, but he nonetheless insisted that the demonstrations were not Fifa’s concern.
“I can understand this social unrest, absolutely, but on the other hand, football is bringing this whole continent emotions and hope,” he said.
“You’ve seen the reaction from the Cabinet of government – they promised to change things. This is not our problem, it’s a political problem.”
He added: “There was never a doubt in Fifa concerning this competition, to stop it or even to think about a plan B.
“It is a question of trust and confidence, in the government, but also in the population of Brazil, because they like football.
“You have seen in the Gallup poll, 71% of people, even during this unrest, say they want to have the World Cup, so I’m sure next year’s World Cup will be a success.”
Earlier, Fifa secretary-general Jerome Valcke expressed hope that the ongoing social unrest would not disrupt the World Cup.
“I hope that the turmoil which we are seeing in the streets will not continue until the World Cup,” he told Friday’s edition of the daily O Estado de Sao Paulo.
“But clearly we can expect something to happen during the event,” he conceded.
“And why couldn’t something similar happen until 2016, when the international press will be here?” he added, in reference to the Rio Summer Olympics.
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