On Tuesday FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke visited Recife, his first port of call on a three-day trip to Brazil, and dropped in at the city’s Arena Pernambuco.

Valcke formed part of a delegation that also comprised Bebeto and Ronaldo, both members of the Management Board of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ Organising Committee (LOC), as well as Luis Fernandes, Executive Secretary of the Brazilian Ministry of Sport, and the well-known artist Romero Britto, who hails from Recife.

The group were welcomed by the Deputy Governor of Pernambucano state Joao Lyra Neto and his team, who organised a tour of the stadium, where Valcke expressed his delight at the passion and commitment of the workers and the local people.

In 12 months’ time the Arena Pernambuco will host three matches at the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013, while Recife will also be a FIFA World Cup Host City for the second time in its history the following year, when the stadium will stage five games. Valcke’s visit ended with a meeting between the authorities and sports celebrities at the Palacio do Campo das Princesas, the state governor’s residence, followed by a press conference.

“We were very impressed by the 4,000 workers at the stadium in Pernambuco and the passion and commitment they are showing in making sure that Recife will host the FIFA Confederations Cup,” said the FIFA Secretary General. “Thanks to the Deputy Governor’s guarantees and that passion and commitment, we are confident that Recife will be ready for the Confederations Cup. The decision to stick with the city was based on reports drafted by the technical teams.”

The highpoint of the visit was an impromptu match right in the middle of the construction site, where the workers showed their skills on the ball. “I was nervous about taking a shot in front of idols like Ronaldo and Bebeto, but it was great,” commented Britto. “It was a very special for me to come back to my homeland as a FIFA ambassador with this delegation. We are going to host a fantastic FIFA Confederations Cup and FIFA World Cup and showcase our wonderful culture.”

Meanwhile, Fernandes echoed the views of the FIFA Secretary General: “We could see on our visit that the project is right on time. Our monitoring system has confirmed that 43 per cent of the work has been completed and that everything is going according to schedule, fuelling our confidence that the stadium will be ready in time for the Confederations Cup.”  

For his part, former Brazil star Bebeto, expressed his faith in the people overseeing the project. “Judging by the desire of the workers, I don’t have the slightest doubt that the FIFA Confederations Cup will be here,” he said before recalling the special role that Recife played in turning around Brazil’s bid to qualify for the 1994 FIFA World Cup USA: “This city made a big mark on us. We walked out on the pitch hand in hand and the team came together.”

“I made my debut for A Seleção here,” said Ronaldo before jokingly adding, “I only got five minutes though, because Bebeto was so greedy I couldn’t get on.

“The enthusiasm of the workers has impressed me more than anything,” he added. “Today we’ve seen yet more proof that the stadium will be ready on time. I hope I’ll be back here soon to have a kickaround with all of them.”

After the press conference the delegation headed to Natal for the second leg of their trip.