*Prezados amigos do futebol, *
About a month ago we celebrated a fantastic final at the Maracana to conclude the FIFA Confederations Cup 2013. Every game in the six stadia featured the kind of atmosphere we all have come to expect at the FIFA World Cup. That was a credit to the Brazilian fans. The players were driven on by a wave of passion from the supporters. And the Seleção contributed to the excitement and buzz with their determined and courageous performances. Brazil 2013 and its outstanding matches transformed this competition into a highly attractive sporting event.
After years of planning, the FIFA Confederations Cup was no doubt the first true test for us organisers. Everyone involved have testified that the tournament operated successfully and the teams - according to the feedback received - felt very much at home in Brazil.
For sure there were a few challenges and deficiencies. That is why this event is so important. We were delighted they happened now so we can work on improving these areas for 2014. You cannot expect everything to run perfectly in brand new stadia. That is where we will concentrate our efforts, as we seek to ensure the FIFA World Cup will be a roaring success for the teams, the fans and, most importantly, for the host nation Brazil. A success which can be felt by Brazilians long after the final whistle and who will benefit from numerous infrastructure upgrades, most of them projects accelerated by the staging of the FIFA World Cup.
"Only" are four simple letters that have a double meaning when they are applied to the kick-off of the FIFA World Cup. On the one hand, they express the impatience and fevered anticipation for the beginning of the competition, fuelled by the final lap of qualifiers around the world and the commencement of ticket sales on 20 August. It is now only 313 days until 12 June 2014 when the long wait finally comes to an end.
On the other hand, these four letters reflect the intense effort of the organisers – here I speak about the LOC, FIFA and particularly the host cities, states and the federal government - to ensure everything will be ready on time. There is “only” 11 months to go before the whistle is blown in Sao Paulo for the opening match and the tournament can start for real.
The spotlight has now increasingly fallen on the game itself. A total of 1837 goals have been scored so far in the 648 qualifier matches, an average of three per match. Only 172 games remain until we know the final line-up of the 32 participating nations. None were more in a hurry than Japan, Australia, Iran and Korea Republic, as the quartet became the first to join hosts Brazil in realising their dream of competing at the showcase event next June/July. Currently 87 teams remain in contention for 27 remaining coveted spots over the coming few weeks. In this regard we are already looking for the venue for the team workshop, which will be staged with all the coaches and team managers in February 2014. Florianopolis is one option but a decision will be made by October 2013 where it will be held.
The preparations for football’s flagship event have now really grown into a huge collective undertaking between sports and host country stakeholders, as the works continue apace. Immediately after the FIFA Confederations Cup everyone involved started to sit down and assess what we have learned, and we are set to strengthen any weak links over the next few months. And the process is on-going with a detailed workshop including all twelve host cities at the beginning of August, something which, as of now, will become a monthly forum of exchange and co-ordination between the LOC, FIFA, the host cities and the federal government. Alongside these forums FIFA will, in conjunction with the host country stakeholders, stage three training seminars for operators on sustainable management of stadiums beyond 2014. The first will already take place in Curitiba in mid-August.
For us organisers a key focus is now on the 12 stadia, with a tighter monitoring naturally on the six arenas still under construction. The essential key to success of next year’s flagship event is that we can start setting up the complementary infrastructure for IT & T and broadcasting as of early 2014 across all stadia - earlier than we managed for the Confederations Cup in order to allow time for proper testing and adjustments. Events and matches staged at each venue – be it regular Brazilian league matches or other events – are crucial in order to test the facilities, including public transport as well as training of stewards and volunteers during real events.
With an eye on tackling the tasks and challenges faced in the host cities it is great that the Local Organising Committee has now set in place all venue managers in the 12 cities, so they can become involved on-site in the day-to-day-operations. Their focal point will be the stadia and the match operation related aspects supporting the local authorities and host cities.
After some holidays I really look forward to my next visit from 19 to 22 August in Brazil when we will visit the stadia and some other FIFA World Cup related projects in Sao Paulo, Curitiba and Manaus.
In this period we will also start ticket sales on 20 August at 12h00 CET on FIFA.com, we are currently spending a lot of effort on making sure we can offer the best services to the fans, incorporating what we have learnt from experience. But fans do not need to wait for the exact moment to make their ticket application, because it does not matter whether you apply on 20 August, or 10 October when the 1st sales phase close, as we will collect all requests and then conduct a draw for those categories or matches which are oversubscribed.
The next big milestone on the long road to the FIFA World Cup Brazil is the Final Draw on 6 December at Costa do Sauipe in Bahia when the 32 teams qualified, and football fans around the world, will learn the identity of their opponents during the group stage. We are already working all in one rhythm on the show concept for this major event, which is set to register a TV audience like a FIFA World Cup match worldwide.
The countdown to 2014 rolls inexorably on – steadily and yet constantly gaining momentum.