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Brazil President Promises FIFA There Will Be Beer at the Cup. But Congress Isn't So Sure

Blatter, Pelé, Dilma Rousseff Joseph Blatter, the head of FIFA, after meeting with Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, the minister of Sports, Aldo Rebelo, and former soccer players, Pelé and Ronaldo (who is a member of the 2014 World Cup organizing committee), had lunch with the president of the House of Representatives, Marco Maia and the leader of the government there, Arlindo Chinaglia.

Maia and Chinaglia are responsible for an essential hurdle before Brazil and FIFA can move ahead in harmony: herding the World Cup General Law through Congress.

However, significantly, neither Maia nor Chinaglia  promised that the law, when approved, would authorize the sale of beer at 2014 World Cup games. Both congressmen admitted that Brazil's image was in play and that the country had to fulfill its obligations as per agreements signed with FIFA (including respecting FIFA's commercial rights in a contract with the Budweiser brewery).

But when asked specifically about the General Law, both were cautious.

Maia said deputies did have a responsibility, but at the same time he emphasized the pluralistic nature of the legislature and the diversity of its makeup.

"Our parliament represents a synthesis of the Brazilian people. We are proud to be one of the world's largest democracies and we know that its existence only came about after a difficult struggle in our recent past," declared Maia.

Chinaglia said that in principle the vote on the General Law should take place this week, but admitted that another postponement was possible.

According to the minister of Sports, Aldo Rebelo, "The government is confident in the decision that will be made by the Congress. But, we have no guarantee about the outcome. If we did, it would not be necessary to have a vote. What I can say is that the government drew up this bill and sent it to Congress. This is a bill that contains guarantees that the Brazilian government will honor its obligations with FIFA."

On Friday, March 16, following a meeting with president Dilma Rousseff, the president of the international soccer association (FIFA), Joseph Blatter, declared that she had assured him that Brazil will comply with all World Cup agreements.

The Brazilian minister of Sports, Aldo Rebelo, who also attended the meeting, made a similar declaration: "The Brazilian government is endeavoring to comply with all guarantees and commitments so that the World Cup will be a success."

According to both Blatter and Rebelo, the tone of the meeting with Dilma was one of cooperation, people working together in harmony, striving to strengthen ties.

Blatter arrived in Brazilian capital Brasília at a moment of tension. Special World Cup legislation, which was supposed to be in place by now, is still being heatedly debated in Congress. One of the hot-button issues in the discussion is whether or not fans can drink beer at World Cup games.

In a crackdown on violence at soccer matches, the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages in stadiums was outlawed in Brazil by the Fan Statute, of May 2003. FIFA, on the other hand, has a commercial contract with Budweiser and in order to host the World Cup Brazil signed agreements respecting FIFA's commercial rights.

What should have been a simple exception to the Fan Statute for the duration of the FIFA World Cup (the official name of the event) has turned into a political tug of war with the evangelical caucus that is adamantly opposed to drinking being joined by discontent members of the government's huge congressional majority.

As a result, the debate in Congress has taken on a loose cannonball aspect with red-flag subjects like sovereignty boiling up and the government, fearing defeat, being forced to postpone the vote on the General Law a number of times.

Speaking of loose cannonballs, the FIFA secretary-general, Jerome Valcke, who is supposed to be the organization's liaison with Brazil, decided to stir up more tension by making statements last week that the Brazilian government considered offensive. Apologies were made, but that did not stop journalists from peppering Blatter with questions about Valcke on Friday after his meeting with Dilma.

According to the president of FIFA: "Jerome Valcke continues to work for FIFA. The problem between Valcke and Brazil is a problem that the president of FIFA has to resolve. That will take time. Will you give me some time to resolve the problem?"

Blatter then changed the subject and went on to say that he was completely confident in Brazil's ability to ",,,host the best World Cup of all times."

Meanwhile, Pelé, who also attended the Rousseff-Blatter meeting (Pelé is officially Brazil's 2014 World Cup "ambassador"), revealed that he was acting in the role of fireman because of the way the debate about drinking beer at soccer games during the World Cup and Jerome Valcke's remarks had created a firestorm.

"I told Blatter to make a special effort to have this meeting with Dilma and the minister of Sports in order to resolve all questions and misunderstandings. The meeting was a success. From here on, we will all move ahead in harmony, without confusion," said the world's Athlete of the (20th) Century.

ABr

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