RIO DE JANEIRO, 22 JUNE: Fifa has asked the Brazilian government to provide security guarantees amid fears that sweeping civil unrest could pose a threat to the Confederations Cup.
Less than a day after widespread rioting hit Brazil’s biggest cities, Fifa secretary-general Jerome Valcke denied speculation the tournament could be aborted.
"We have asked for security measures that we need in place for the competition to continue until the end," Valcke said yesterday, adding: "I hope that this doesn’t last until 2014. It’s a problem that Brazil needs to resolve, not Fifa. We are the wrong target."
The protests, which started in Sao Paulo last week over rises in transport fares, have changed into a nationwide movement against government corruption and the cost of the World Cup. More than a million demonstrators marched through Brazil’s biggest cities on Thursday with many participants calling for fans to boycott the World Cup.
Police fired rubber bullets and tear-gas as protestors attempted to enter the foreign ministry in Brasilia while violent clashes were also reported in Sao Paulo and here.
Asked if Fifa had considered a back-up plan in case the unrest escalated, Valcke replied: "The Confederations Cup is taking place in Brazil and the World Cup will be here too. We are going to guarantee that it will take place in the best way possible. There’s no Plan B."
The events of the past week prompted President Dilma Rousseff to hold an emergency cabinet meeting in Brasilia on Friday. She told sport minister Aldo Rebelo to ensure all of Fifa’s security demands were met. The Italian football federation released a statement denying reports the squad were considering abandoning the tournament. The federation’s vice-president Demetrio Albertini described the rumours as an invention.
"We are not even analysing the hypothesis of leaving the Confederations Cup," Albertini said.
Italy’s players remained inside their hotel on Friday, with the exception of striker Mario Balotelli, who is of Ghanaian origin.
When asked why Balotelli had left the hotel, Prandelli joked that it was "because he is another colour," before explaining himself more clearly. "Excuse me, I made a joke earlier," he said. "Mario told me: ‘Being black, I’d like to go to see the children for a social project.’ It’s a great thing — it wasn’t just to go for a walk." The Salvador region, in the northeastern state of Bahia, is largely populated by people of African descent.
Italy midfielder Riccardo Montolivo said he "condemned the violence," but expressed "solidarity with those who demonstrate peacefully. If they’re doing it, it’s because they’re suffering," he said.