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Brazil's sports minister pledges 'great' World Cup

By Stephen Wade

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Nov. 28 2011 1:18 p.m. MST

RIO DE JANEIRO — Amid corruption scandals and delays, Brazil's new sports minister promises a "great World Cup" in 2014.

Aldo Rebelo gave his upbeat prediction Monday days after it was reported that Ricardo Teixeira is preparing to resign as president of the 2014 World Cup organizing committee.

Teixeira is a member of FIFA's executive committee. He is linked to an investigation of kickbacks at ISL, the marketing agency that owned World Cup television rights until its 2001 bankruptcy with estimated debts of $300 million.

Rebelo was appointed in October to replace Orlando Silva, who resigned after being embroiled in his own corruption scandal.

Rebelo spoke at the opening ceremony of Soccerex in Rio de Janeiro, a global trade show for the soccer industry.

"It is not only the world of football that is going through tough times because of claims of corruption, problems with racism, intolerance," Rebelo told hundreds of delegates at the convention. "These facts are undesirable. These are things that are happening in the whole world."

The minister's comments touched on problems surrounding Sepp Blatter, the embattled president of FIFA, who has been under growing pressure to reform the governing body following a series of scandals.

FIFA has promised to publish Swiss court papers in December identifying senior officials who took payment from ISL. British broadcaster BBC has identified the officials as Teixeira and his former father-in-law Joao Havelange, the longtime FIFA president who Blatter succeeded in 1998.

Speaking after his address, Rebelo was asked about the tension between FIFA and Teixeira. He hinted new blood might be needed.

"This is nothing new, this has always been my opinion," he said. "The renewal and rotating system in any institution is always a good thing for sport and democracy."

Rebelo also addressed organizational problems in building infrastructure such as airports and stadiums and getting World Cup venues ready on time.

FIFA officials have repeatedly said the preparations are behind schedule. FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke told Brazilian lawmakers this month the pace had to be stepped up, saying "we are late, we can't lose a day."

"Rest assured that Brazil will have a great World Cup in 2014," Rebelo said. "We are also going to have a good World Cup in terms of organization. The federal government, the state governments and the municipal governments of the 12 host cities are fully engaged in organizing this event to meet all the expectations of the world, of our country, of the athletes, the tourists and the organizers and promoters."

"From Tibet to Patagonia," he added, "humankind expects Brazil to have a good World Cup."

Tony Martin, chairman of Soccerex, also defended Brazil.

"Those that have misgivings about the hotels, transport facilities, stadiums not meeting five-star criteria are wrong," he said. "This marvelous country has a way of doing things in its own relaxed manner, but invariably will deliver on time."

Thierry Weil, FIFA's marketing director, said the scandals were having little effect on FIFA's major sponsors and partners. He described sponsorship deals for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup package as "going extremely well."

Weil compared FIFA to a family with some problems.

"You see that a lot of people are saying wrong things. Somethings are maybe right," Weil said. "We are on the way to change it."

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