FIFA chief apologises to Brazil
FIFA president Sepp Blatter on Tuesday apologised to Brazil over remarks by his secretary general Jerome Valcke that the Brazilian organizers of the 2014 World Cup needed a "kick up the backside."
In a letter sent to Brazilian Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo, Blatter said: "Both as FIFA President and personally, I would like to apologize to all those -- above all the Brazilian government and President Dilma Rousseff -- who feel that their honor and pride has been injured."
"We have a common goal -- the organization of an extraordinary World Cup in the land of football, in the land of champions," he added. "Brazil deserves to host the World Cup and the entire world is looking forward to it."
Blatter also said he would like to meet Rousseff and Rebelo "as soon as possible, ideally next week" to defuse the blazing row.
FIFA has for months expressed varying degrees of concern over the extent to which preparations -- renovation or construction of stadiums as well as infrastructure projects -- are on track for the first World Cup in Brazil since 1950.
Earlier, Valcke himself offered his own apology in a letter to Rebelo, saying he "profoundly regretted that an incorrect interpretation" of his comments had triggered such an angry response from the host country.
"I would like to present my apologies to everyone who was offended by my comments," said Valcke, a French national.
He explained that in French, the phrase "se donner un coup de pied aux fesses" (to give someone a kick up the backside) only meant "to pick up the pace." The translation into Portuguese used a stronger expression, he added.
"I don't understand why things are not moving. The stadiums are not on schedule anymore and why are a lot of things late?" Valcke said Friday.
These comments drew a sharp rebuke from Brazil, with Rebelo saying Valcke would no longer be welcome as a FIFA spokesman.