‘The real president of Brazil is Fifa’

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Romario AFP Former Brazil striker Romario says the money on stadiums for the Confederations Cup and World Cup in Brazil could have been put to better use. Picture: Antonio Scorza

Rio de Janerio – Former Brazil forward Romario has described Fifa as “the real president of Brazil” and said the money spent on stadiums for the 2014 World Cup could have been used to build thousands of new schools.

Romario, who spearheaded Brazil's attack when they won the 1994 World Cup and is now a congressman, said Brazil had spent more than twice as much on hosting the World Cup as Germany did in 2006 and South Africa four years later.

“That is taking the piss,” he said in a video posted the websites of several Brazilian newspapers. “It's taking the piss with our money, with the public's money, it's a lack of respect, a lack of scruples.”

Romario, who appeared unshaven and wearing a sleeveless top, said the money spent on stadiums so far was enough to provide “8,000 new schools, 39,000 school buses or 28,000 sports courts in the whole country”.

Brazil has been hit by a wave of nationwide protests as it stages the eight-team Confederations Cup, which is considered a dry run for next year's World Cup. The amount of money spent on stadiums is among the protestors' many grievances.

The World Cup will be staged in 12 stadiums, either built from scratch or completely refurbished. Brazil is spending around 28 billion reais ($12.9 billion) on the event.

“The money spent on the Mane Garrincha stadium in Brasilia could be used to build 150,000 houses for low income families,” said Romario, who said he was speaking as “Romario the Brazilian” rather than as a footballer or politician.

“But no, we spent 1.5 billion reais on a stadium. Is it beautiful? Yes. Is it practical? Not really. But another thing is that after the Confederations Cup, some things will have to be re-done, because they didn't work out, and a few new things will have to be added for the World Cup.”

“The real president of our country is Fifa,” he added. “Fifa comes to our country and sets up a state within a state.

“Fifa will make a profit of four billion reais which should provide one billion in tax, but they will not pay anything. They come, set up the circus, they don't spend anything and they take everything with them.”

Brazil's Congress has passed a bill which exempts Fifa from paying tax on profits in Brazil. It was one of the conditions Fifa made when Brazil was awarded the right to stage the event.

“Since Brazil was awarded the World Cup in 2007, things have gone off the rails,” Romario added.

“The budgets that were made for stadiums, airports and urban mobility were all wrong, and it's the people who pay the bill.” – Reuters



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