FIFA not considering scrapping Confed Cup

Updated: 2013-06-23 09:20

(China Daily/Agencies)

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'No team wants to pull out' amid huge protests involving 1.2 million people

World soccer's governing body FIFA said on Friday that it has no plans to scrap the Confederations Cup and that no team wants to pull out despite the huge protests rocking Brazil.

"At no stage has FIFA considered or discussed abandoning the Confederations Cup with the local authorities," FIFA media chief Pekka Odriozola said. "We are monitoring the situation with the authorities."

"We support the right of free speech," he added. "We condemn violence."

Mass demonstrations, which have sometimes turned violent, are taking place as Brazil is hosting teams from around the world for the Confederations Cup, a dry run for next year's World Cup being held in six host cities.

Many Brazilians are angry that bills for preparing the World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics are running to billions of dollars while many say they are not benefiting in a country racing to overhaul creaking infrastructure.

The mass protests initially began last week in Rio and Sao Paulo over rises in public transport fares.

But Thursday saw an estimated 1.2 million people in more than 100 cities march against public corruption, poor health and education services, as well as high taxes and the big spending on projects such as World Cup stadiums.

"Three of these stadiums ... are simply white elephants, just pointless," demonstrator Matheus told AFP during a protest by some 20,000 people in the central city of Belo Horizonte.

Despite calls by FIFA president Sepp Blatter not to use football to channel their anger, more and more people have answered calls from social media sites to take to the streets.

President Dilma Rousseff called an emergency meeting of her top cabinet members Friday as the protests swelled in size with more panned across the weekend, and also canceled a trip to Japan scheduled for next week.

Security forces fought to maintain order Thursday as some demonstrations saw looting break out, while some marchers attacked the foreign ministry building in Brasilia and the town hall in the southern city of Porto Alegre.

Police fired tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets to disperse crowds.

Rio saw the biggest demonstration on Thursday, when some 300,000 people tried to march on the Maracana stadium ahead of a match between Spain and Tahiti and one protester was killed in Sao Paulo when he was hit by a car.

In Salvador in the northeast of the country police fired tear gas during a march by some 20,000 protesters before Uruguay played Nigeria 2-1, amid reports of attacks on cars used by FIFA officials.

"This is not just about transport fares. It is about corruption, education, health. Why can't FIFA do something to help where we need help," shouted Fernanda, a 17-year-old student who marched in Belo Horizonte.

"Poor schools, poverty, displaced in our own county," shouted others at the same march.

"Dilma, whatever she says, it is just words. There is no action, All the politicians are the same," added another student, who gave her name as Thiais.

Rousseff: Brazil can do better

Embattled president Dilma Rousseff admitted in a televised address late Friday that Brazil can do better and pledged to do more to fight corruption, a day after more than a million people marched to demand better living conditions.

"We can do many things a lot better in Brazil," said Rousseff, the day after the protesters demanded cheaper transport and more investment in education and health as well as a tougher fight against endemic corruption.

"People have a right to criticize," added Rousseff saying she would staunchly defend that right.

In an appeal for unity Rousseff, who promised to meet with the leaders of peaceful demonstrations as well as workers and community leaders, went on: "I am the president of all Brazil. Of those who support the demonstration and those who do not."

Reaching out to those who feel the government should direct more money to public services rather than on hosting major sporting events, she insisted that "football and sport are symbols of peace and peaceful coexistence."