Blatter glosses over protests, says FIFA "stronger"
RIO DE JANEIRO
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - FIFA president Sepp Blatter glossed over the nationwide protests which have formed the backdrop to the Confederations Cup in Brazil, saying football had played a "positive part" for the country.
Blatter was confident next year's World Cup, also in Brazil, would be a success and his spokesman Walter De Gregorio cited a poll which said 71 percent of the population still wanted the country to host the 2014 tournament.
"FIFA has come out of this stronger," Blatter told a news conference at the Maracana. "Football has played a positive part here and given emotion. When we say football connects people, it connected people in the stadium, perhaps unfortunately it connected people in the street.
"I can understand this social unrest, absolutely, but on the other hand, football brings at this time to the whole continent these emotions and hope."
Brazil has been hit by a wave of protests as it hosts the eight-team Confederations Cup, a dry-run for the World Cup which will be staged in 12 cities.
Although the protesters have a multitude of grievances, one of their main complaints has been the contrast between shiny new stadiums for the events and poor state of public services including health, education and transport.
They are also angry Brazil has broken a promise not to spend public money on stadiums, while failing to build many of the planned infrastructure projects.
The protests have featured riot police firing rubber bullets and tear gas at demonstrators but Blatter preferred to concentrate on praising the stadiums and the quality of football.
"From the organisational point of view, when we come to stadiums and the football games, I'm particularly happy with what has happened there," he said.
"On the pitch, this was the best Confederations Cup in quality we have ever organised, the matches very tense, attractive."
FIFA has been criticised in Brazil for making a tax-free profit out of the World Cup and leaving the hosts to make all the investments, something which Blatter challenged.
"The aim of FIFA is not to take profit out of the country but to put into the country the necessary help and means to make sure this World Cup is a success," he said.
"The World Cup provides practically 90 percent of the income of FIFA to ensure we can develop the game around the world.
"Hope is in football. We play football in all perturbed countries, not just where there are belligerent situations like Syria and Afghanistan. Look at European countries, there is social unrest, in Portugal, France, Italy, Spain, in Turkey, in Greece and football is still played.
"I'm sure the World Cup next year will be a success and I trust the organisation and the organisation of the security."
Blatter, who left the tournament last week as the protests reached their peak, hit back at Brazilian media which suggested he had fled the country without warning, saying he had to be present at the world under-20 championship in Turkey which overlaps with the Confederations Cup.
"In no way can it be said I escaped my responsibilities, on the contrary I assumed two responsibilities at the same time," he said. (Reporting by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Alison Wildey)
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