Jerome Valcke: ‘FIFA is not the UN’
The general secretary of FIFA discusses Brazil’s readiness for the World Cup and the criticisms facing Russia and Qatar.
Football’s world governing body FIFA runs the world’s most important sport representing 209 national associations.
And it is not just sport; it’s business. Last year’s accounts showed FIFA had over a billion dollars in reserve, but controversy has not been far from the organisation’s corridors.
FIFA is not the United Nations; FIFA is about sport, it's about football .... We are not there to discuss with political authorities what they should do and what they should not do. We can discuss with them, and again be the platform for them to meet, to exchange and to make sure they are using football as a tool for change. And that's what we're doing .... But we cannot tell a country what should be their foreign policy. That's not our role.
After a corruption scandal erupted in 2010 FIFA has faced a difficult road to three World Cups: Qatar 2022, Russia 2018, Brazil in 2014.
Sepp Blatter is the president of FIFA but the man at the sharp end has been general secretary Jerome Valcke. The Frenchman has taken a tough line on Brazil and is a key decision-maker at FIFA.
“Brazil has to be ready, they have no other choice,” Valcke told Al Jazeera. “Does is it mean that all is going to be perfect? That’s not the point. Does it mean that all that’s been set will be ready on time? That’s not the point. The point is to make sure that whatever we need to stage the World Cup will be there.
“We need to ensure that all is ready. I can confirm that and I can say right in your eyes that all will be there to ensure that the World Cup will be a success. There is no Plan B,” he added.
From a background as a journalist and television sports executive, he was appointed general secretary in 2007, meaning he has operated during the most turbulent period of FIFA’s history.
Russia and Qatar, two future World Cup host countries, have also faced criticism related to their hosting of the tournament.
Recent events involving Sochi and Crimea have raised questions about the interplay of sport and politics in Russia, while human rights groups have questioned the safety and working conditions of migrants employed in the construction industry in Qatar.
Asked how Qatar was progressing in addressing the issue, Valcke said “we are making progress”.
“I am not saying that it will change in six months because that’s not the case, it takes time,” he said. “What we have to do is to ensure that there will be no more deaths, that you will have a level of safety and security for the people who are working there which is the best.”
Valcke said only a “real crisis” would result in a tournament being revoked from a host country: “A real crisis, which puts at risk the organisation of the World Cup, which puts at risk the safety of a country, which puts at risk the fact that you bring people to a country and their safety is no ensured.”
So what is next for Brazil, Russia and Qatar? What impact will the World Cup have in these countries? And how will these events shape the career of the general secretary?
We explore all this as Jerome Valcke, general secretary of FIFA, talks to Al Jazeera.
|Talk to Al Jazeera can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0430 and 1930; Sunday: 1930; Monday: 1430 .|