Fifa blasts city over Fan Fest axe
Fifa's secretary general has criticised a Brazilian host city's decision to cancel its Fan Fest, saying the event allowing people to watch games for free on large screens is an important part of the World Cup.
Jerome Valcke's comments came after authorities in Recife said they would not spend public money on an event which lets fans without tickets for football's premier tournament to watch matches in public areas.
"Not having a Fan Fest is a mistake, to make it very clear," Mr Valcke said.
While Recife was the first city to officially cancel the Fan Fest, others among the 12 Brazilian host cities have expressed concerns about whether it was worth spending public money on events that usually combine football with musical and cultural attractions.
Local vendors are not allowed in the Fan Fest area, which is restricted to products of official World Cup sponsors. But Mr Valcke dismissed the idea that Fifa profited from such events, saying they were something "for the city" and local fans.
"A Fan Fest is a big part of the organisation of the World Cup," he said. "If you don't have a Fan Fest, you are missing something ... (the) kind of communion of people playing a game, playing a part of what a World Cup is for a country."
Fan Fests first became part of the official Fifa programme in Germany in 2006, following the huge success of unofficial public viewing events in South Korea in 2002. In 2010, the idea was expanded so that not only did South African host cities stage Fan Fests, but six other international venues also held events.
Mr Valcke is in Brazil for an inspection tour of three host cities. His latest stop was in the jungle city of Manaus, which has confirmed a Fan Fest for about 35,000 people on match days next June.
Brazil is continuing to struggle to finish its World Cup preparations. With less than four months before the opening match, five stadiums remain under construction and there are doubts whether the southern city of Curitiba will remain in the tournament amid significant delays in work on its arena.
The Arena da Amazonia in Manaus is one of the unfinished stadiums, although Mr Valcke seemed happy with what he saw at the site, which is 97% completed.
Mr Valcke will visit the capital Brasilia today and then travel to the southern city of Porto Alegre, where another problem awaits him. Officials there are continuing to fight over who will pay the nearly £7.8 million needed to build the temporary facilities required by Fifa outside the venue.
"If the problem is not solved, there is a risk we are dropped from the World Cup, and it's not a small risk," said Giovanni Luigi, president of Internacional, the Brazilian club in charge of the Beira-Rio stadium in Porto Alegre.
Mr Luigi said the club alone should not be responsible for the cost, but local officials do not want the government to get involved.
After visiting the three host cities, Mr Valcke will head to the southern city of Florianopolis to attend a meeting with representatives of all 32 World Cup teams. His trip ends with a board meeting of the local World Cup organising committee Friday, also in Florianopolis.