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FIFA warn World Cup could be targeted by protests

A general view shows FIFA headquarters, the Home of FIFA, in Zurich October 20, 2010. Picture taken with a fish-eye lens. REUTERS/Christian
A general view shows FIFA headquarters, the Home of FIFA, in Zurich October 20, 2010. Picture taken with a fish-eye lens. REUTERS/Christian

By Mark Gleeson

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The World Cup could be targeted again next year for demonstrations in Brazil against graft and poor public services but FIFA should not be held responsible or made a scapegoat, general secretary Jerome Valcke warned on Tuesday.

The presence of massed world media made the World Cup "an easy platform to express concern and organize demonstrations," he said.

"I think it is too easy to put the blame of what happened in the streets in Brazil in June on FIFA or the World Cup saying why are spending so much money on a football tournament and not spending it somewhere else.

June's Confederations Cup, a two-week test event before the 2014 finals, was overshadowed by a rapid and unexpected wave of discontent in Latin America's biggest country, catching both authorities and world football's governing body unawares.

The marches, which drew over one million protesters in more than 100 cities at their peak, used the tournament as a stage from which to vent their grievances.

Many Brazilians are outraged that the country is spending $14 billion on World Cup related projects at a time when schools, hospitals, roads and public security are in dire need of investment.

Six deaths were reported during Confederations Cup demonstrations, including four people who were run over by vehicles, one who died in a fall from an overpass and another from inhaling tear gas.

"It's true that the Confederations Cup, as is potentially the case for the World Cup next year, was the perfect platform to demonstrate. There will be thousands of journalists covering the World Cup," Valcke told reporters after a meeting in South Africa of the trust overseeing the profits from the last finals in 2010.

"I would say that the demonstrations in Brazil were also hijacked when at the day's end a few, may I say, stupid guys joined the group and started destroying things and fighting with the police.

Valcke said FIFA should not be the target of demonstrators.

"The question should be asked of the Brazilians, to the people in streets, what are they asking for? They are asking for more investment in education, public health, public transport.

"If you look at what the World Cup brought to South Africa, it made a real difference," he added.

Valcke is a member of the board of the trust overseeing the disbursement of $80-million profit from the 2010 finals. It announced on Monday it is to spend R60-million (around $5,8-million) on approved projects next year, around the same amount spent this year.

(Editing by Justin Palmer; mark.gleeson@thomsonreuters.com +27828257807 Messaging mark.gleeson.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net)

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