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Volume 6 No. 213

World Cup

UEFA President Michel Platini "has made it clear he will not support" FIFA President Sepp Blatter if he "stands for re-election," according to the AP. Blatter "is expected to formally declare his candidacy for a fifth term," but Platini -- who is considering a run at FIFA's top job -- said that "the time has come for a change." Platini: “I don’t support him. I’ve known him a long time and I like him, but I’m not in favor of him serving another term. I supported him in 1998 but I don’t support him in 2014, I think that FIFA needs a breath of fresh air.” Platini "plans to announce his decision whether to stand for FIFA presidency in next year's election on Aug. 28." Platini said UEFA members “want me to announce it as soon as possible.” Platini: “It’s not as if choosing between UEFA and FIFA is like choosing between hospital and prison. There’s nothing negative about this choice. When I undertake something, it’s to win” (AP, 6/12). In London, Roger Blitz reported Platini said that when Blatter ran for a fourth term in '11, he asked for UEFA's support, saying that "it would be his last term." Platini also criticized FIFA "for opposing term and age limits for officials." His comments "suggest the already fractured relationship" between Blatter and Platini is "irreparably broken." Senior UEFA officials "stunned Mr Blatter when he attended its meeting in São Paulo on Monday by calling on him not to stand for re-election." UEFA insiders said that the mood among its members "had hardened since they arrived in Brazil for the World Cup" and that a UEFA-backed challenge "was looking more likely." The European federation "has been emboldened by World Cup sponsors voicing concerns" about the Qatar tournament and wanting FIFA "to respond to them appropriately"(FINANCIAL TIMES, 6/12). The BBC reported Platini "still would not commit himself" to a run for the FIFA presidency. At present, "there is just one candidate" -- former FIFA Deputy Secretary-General Jerome Champagne. Platini: "It is an option to run. But it is not because Sepp Blatter is running that Michel Platini will not run and it is not because Blatter is not running that Platini will run. My only concern is knowing what I want to do. I am 60 soon and I need to know what I want. I will take my time" (BBC, 6/12). ITV reported Pele believes Blatter "is the right man" to lead FIFA. Pele said that Platini "is a strong candidate," but feels that Blatter "has done a good job" (ITV, 6/12).

HOLDING ALL THE CARDS: In London, Gabriele Marcotti wrote Blatter "was predictably mocked on social media when he raised the possibility of interplanetary football" at the FIFA Congress. But his comments "betrayed something else about his state of mind." He is "unworried not because he is removed from reality, but because he understands realpolitik all too well." The bottom line "is that Blatter holds all the cards." Three years ago he said that "he would not stand for re-election in 2015." His potential challengers "took it as a kind of peace offering." Maybe "they should have got that pledge in writing, because the Swiss is still around and will probably be around through to 2019 and perhaps beyond." He is "brilliant in a political, House of Cards kind of way." The Qatar 2022 revelations "benefited him first and foremost, but that doesn’t stop him from blasting them as 'an attempt to destroy us' to seek favour with the African delegates." He "is a Teflon figure," who redefines “bouncebackability” and "forms and breaks alliances, depending on the shifting winds" (LONDON TIMES, 6/12).

FFA WEIGHS IN: The AAP reported Australia said that its support for Blatter "depends on his will to mend the battered reputation of the game’s governing body." Football Federation Australia Chair Frank Lowy said that "a pending report into FIFA corruption claims would determine the nation’s stance." Lowy: “The governance has to improve a lot. There are lots of issues to deal with, whether FIFA and its president are capable of dealing with that.” Admitting concern at FIFA’s "tarnished standing in the world, Lowy said issues went deeper than just Blatter." Lowy: “It’s not for me to say ‘it’s time.’ It’s for 209 (FIFA member) nations to say it’s time. Australia has got one vote out of 209 other nations. And it’s no good exaggerating what Australia’s power in FIFA is" (AAP, 6/12).

Subway workers in São Paulo "backed down from a threatened strike" on the opening day of the FIFA World Cup, "removing a cloud from global event whose preparations have been plagued by delays and protests," according to Magalhães & Jelmayer of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Union members voted Wednesday to continue working "despite its threats to walk off the job unless 42 co-workers fired this week were reinstated." São Paulo Metro workers' union President Altino de Melo Prazeres Júnior said that members "were worried about a potential public backlash." He said, "What weighed on our decision was fatigue and the fear of some workers that people could view our decision as a move to disturb the World Cup." The union's retreat "defuses a potential public-relations nightmare for Brazil, which has struggled with delayed stadiums, unfinished infrastructure and protesters angry over the tournament's cost" (WSJ, 6/11). The AP reported World Cup organizers are counting on São Paulo's subway system "to carry tens of thousands of fans Thursday to Itaquerao stadium, where Brazil will play Croatia in the tournament's first game far from the hotel areas where most tourists are staying." Teachers "remain on strike in Rio and routinely block streets with rallies, and subway workers in that city briefly threatened a walkout." Police in several cities "have also gone on strike in recent weeks, but are back at work now'' (AP, 6/12). Rio de Janeiro airport workers "suspended a strike" on Thursday after a court ordered them to return to work (BLOOMBERG, 6/12).

PROTESTERS CLASH WITH POLICE: REUTERS' Winter & Teixeira reported Brazilian police and protesters clashed on Thursday "just hours before the opening game of the World Cup." Police fired noise bombs to "disperse a crowd" of about 200 demonstrators angry about government overspending on the event. The protesters "were trying to cut off a key avenue leading to the Corinthians Arena" where Thursday's opening match was held. At least one protester "was arrested." A CNN producer "was injured during the confrontation." Brazil "is widely considered the spiritual home of global football, and in recent days more of the flags and street parties that usually characterize World Cups" have begun to show up. Yet the list of possible problems "is long." In fact, hosting a successful tournament "may ultimately prove harder for Brazil than winning it" (REUTERS, 6/12). In London, Haroon Siddique reported CNN Producer Barbara Arvanitidis "suffered a suspected broken arm." An online photo showed a protester "apparently being pepper sprayed while behind held round the neck by another policeman" (GUARDIAN, 6/12). The BBC reported TV footage showed "riot police using tear gas and rubber truncheons" to disperse 50 protesters near a metro station on the route to the Arena Corinthians. The demonstrators had been chanting "there won't be a Cup" (BBC, 6/12). In London, Leahy & Pearson reported hacker group Anonymous said that "it had attacked a number of Brazilian government websites to mark its opposition to the country’s hosting of the World Cup." It "was not clear whether the group’s attack had much success, with most of the websites still operating" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 6/12).

Australia's government "will consider legal action" to recoup more than A$40M ($37M) "wasted on Australia's futile bid to host the 2022 football World Cup, won by oil-rich Qatar on the back of alleged systematic bribery," according to Proszenko & Aston of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. Minister for Sport Peter Dutton said the government would ''consider options'' to claw back the money after reports that Qatari officials "showered cash on football officials across the globe to secure the hosting rights in a landslide." Australian Football Federation Chair Frank Lowy has demanded that FIFA return the money, while former Soccer Australia CEO David Hill has said that "the Rudd government was 'mad' to risk public funds 'when everybody knew the process was crook.'" Dutton said that "the government would wait for the results of FIFA's independent investigation" into the allegations football officials pocketed up to $5M in cash, as well as lavish gifts and free travel from former FIFA VP and Qatari national Mohamed bin Hammam. Dutton said, "I think it's one step at a time and the first step is to wait and see ... what the world body does. And then I think we can consider options" (SMH, 6/13).

The World Cup "got off to a faltering start" at Corinthians Arena on Thursday night when poor sound quality "left many television viewers unable to enjoy the opening ceremony," according to Ed Malnick of the London TELEGRAPH. Jennifer Lopez took to the stage to sing the official FIFA song "We Are One (Ole Ola)." But while those inside the stadium "were able to enjoy her singing, the experience of many at home was hampered by 'appalling' sound quality," which left the voices of Lopez and rapper Pitbull "sounding faint and 'tinny.'" A source at ITV, which broadcast the ceremony in Britain, said last night that it had “no control” over audio levels because a single feed was distributed around the world. An ITV spokesman said, "The sound problem that regrettably caused some disruption to viewers was caused by a technical issue with the host broadcaster, which provides the coverage of all the action at this year's World Cup" (TELEGRAPH, 6/12). The BBC reported the "colourful opening ceremony" was a preluade for hosts Brazil beating Croatia 3-1 in the first match. A cast of 660 dancers "paid tribute to the country's nature, people and football with a show around a 'living' ball on the Arena de Sao Paulo pitch." The final act saw a performance of official World Cup song "We Are One" by Lopez and Pitbull. Performers "dressed as trees, flowers and various musical instruments all performed in three acts before the central ball opened" to reveal singers Claudia Leitte, Lopez and Pitbull as "they sang the official World Cup song as the finale" (BBC, 6/12). In London, Keiran Gill noted there was "an awkward moment when the elevating platform seemed to get stuck" and Pitbull had to help Lopez up "before the pair performed 'We Are One (Ola Ola)'" (DAILY MAIL, 6/12).

WHEN DOVES CRY: The AAP reported three doves "were released by children at a lavish opening ceremony." The doves flew "as protests raged elsewhere in Brazil's largest city." The "futuristic scene" came as the host nation "sought to cast side its oft-used mocking slogan: Brazil is a country of the future, and always will be." The ceremony was held in the 62,600-capacity stadium before guests, including Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and "embattled" FIFA President Sepp Blatter. More than 600 artists, including acrobatic gymnasts, trampolinists, marshal arts-style capoeira performers and stilt walkers "also featured in a homage to Brazil's three great treasures: nature, people football." The center of the show was a giant LED ball made up of more than 90,000 light clusters -- one of the "few large-scale technical wonders in the event as organisers were ordered to avoid placing a strain on the pitch where Brazil and Croatia face off 75 minutes after the ceremony" (AAP, 6/13).

Brazil "is beefing up security" for the World Cup, but corporate execs and wealthy fans "are sparing no expense when it comes to their safety," according to Ben Rooney of CNN. These "elite fans will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars" on armored cars, body guards and -- if need be -- a helicopter "to airlift them out of a sketchy situation." An estimated 30,000 to 60,000 people will spend between $10,000 and $20,000 per person on "enhanced security services" at the World Cup, according to iJET, a security company that advises multinational corporations. That translates to a windfall of up to $12M "for the private security industry." The services range from advice on which neighborhoods to avoid after dark and "intelligence" reports on protests that could shut down traffic, to more drastic measures such as "extractions" and ransom negotiations (CNN, 6/12).

FIFA VP Jeffrey Webb said that teams "should be kicked out of the World Cup" if their fans or players commit racist offenses. Webb said that "it must follow" the NBA's lead after L.A. Clippers Owner Donald Sterling "was forced to sell up for making racist remarks." Asked if teams or individuals could be banned, Webb said, "They have to. The NBA set a new standard and I applaud them. ... We must have a zero tolerance." Webb added that "not enough is being done" at a national and regional level following the adoption of tough new rules by FIFA over racism and anti-discrimination in '13. Webb: "We've got to get the national associations and confederations around the world to start implementing [harsher penalties]" (BBC, 6/12). ... A representative study by the University of Hohenheim said that the majority of Germans believe that "the World Cup advertising does have an influence, but the buying intension is low." According to the results of an online survey, "more than three-quarters of Germans believe that the World Cup advertising does have an influence, especially in sports goods and textiles." However, only 5% said that "they are more willing to buy products that lay the emphasis on World Cup themes in the advertising" (XINHUA, 6/12). ... Astronauts in the NASA space station will watch the 2014 FIFA World Cup. U.S. astronauts Reid Wiseman and Steve Swanson and German astronaut Alexander Gerst "have decided to spread the FIFA fever" to space by watching it live (DECCAN CHRONICLE, 6/12).

WORLD CUP NATIONALISM: They proclaim Marxism on the battlefield "but Colombia's largest rebel group is all nationalism come World Cup time." In a public letter Wednesday to Colombia's national team and its Argentine coach, Jose Pekerman, negotiators for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia said that they hope Colombia's return to the World Cup for the first time since '98 "can help advance peace talks taking place in Cuba for more than 18 months" (AP, 6/11).

ADIDAS DEMONSTRATION: Hundreds of workers formerly employed by adidas in Jakarta "staged a demonstration on Wednesday" demanding adidas and its local contractor pay them severance owed since '12. The demonstrators "expressed their anger at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta," carrying signs denouncing adidas and local footwear producer PT Panarub Dwikarya (PDK). The demonstrators "were part of more than 300 PDK workers who lost their jobs after joining a five-day strike" in '12 (JAKARTA POST, 6/12).

SOCIAL MEDIA MADNESS: FIFA launched its official FIFAWorldCup account on Instagram to share imagery from Brazil and for football supporters across the globe to share their World Cup celebrations on social media. The account will also be promoting #myworldcup, where fans can upload photos showing how they are watching the tournament (FIFA). ... Spanish newspaper AS on Wednesday launched its free "AS Mundial" app for fans to follow the World Cup, with more than 50,000 downloading it "within hours of its launch." The app provides fans with "information about participating players and coaches, including a search feature and a schedule of the games, and it will also serve as an encyclopedia of World Cup history" (AS, 6/11).

ON VACATION: Throughout the World Cup, which will run until July 13, 45 million students at Brazilian public schools "will be on vacation to celebrate the football party." This is "because FIFA said so and nobody can compete with the football authority." The closing of the schools "follows a regulation established in '12 that required the country to adjust its schedule around the World Cup." The "reason for the measure is to guarantee 'urban mobility' in the 12 cities where games will be played" (EL CONFIDENCIAL, 6/12).

THE BIG SCREEN: Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera announced that the city "will install a giant screen at its Zócalo plaza in the center of the city." The TV, which will measure 18x10 meters, will carry all the games from the World Cup. The broadcast signal will "also be shared with government officials throughout Mexico so that they can decide where to install the big screens in their respective states" (NOTIMEX, 6/11). ... Soldiers in a Nigerian state at the heart of an Islamist revolt shut down all venues preparing to screen live World Cup matches, "hoping to stave off the kind of attacks that have killed more than 20 people in the past two weeks." The Nigerian government also advised residents of Abuja "to avoid public viewing centres as the 2014 World cup kicks off in Brazil in case of attacks" (REUTERS, 6/11). ... A United Nations spokesperson said that the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo "will organize public screenings of all games during the FIFA World Cup" in two public areas of the DRC's capital, Kinshasa (XINHUA, 6/12).