Fifa, soccer's world governing body, and Brazil, the host for the 2014 World Cup, are on collision course once again over preparations for the tournament.
Sepp Blatter, president of Fifa, suggested yesterday that, in the wake of nationwide anti-government protests on the streets of Brazil during last month's Confederations Cup, the country may have been the "wrong" choice to stage the World Cup.
He said: "If this happens again [the demonstrations], we have to question whether we made the wrong decision awarding the hosting rights."
Brazil's sports ministry responded: "The success of the Confederations Cup proves Brazil is the correct choice to host the World Cup. As for the demonstrations, Brazil is a democratic country that guarantees its citizens full freedom of expression."
There was no bid process for the 2014 World Cup, with Brazil named host in 2007 on the basis that South America was scheduled to host the tournament under a continental rotation policy in effect at the time.
Last year, Fifa secretary general Jérôme Valcke was forced to apologise to the Brazilian government for suggesting the country needed a “kick up the backside” in its organisation of the World Cup.
Valcke’s criticism had prompted a furious response from Aldo Rebelo, Brazil’s sports minister, who informed Fifa that his country was no longer prepared to deal directly with Valcke in the organisation of the event.
Valcke claimed in his letter of apology that there had been “a misinterpretation in the translation of his words” into Portuguese, adding: “I would therefore like to apologise to you and also to anyone who was shocked by my words.”
Meanwhile, the plan to move the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to the northern hemisphere winter from its traditional months of June and July has met with differing views in Germany and England.
Blatter announced at a sports conference in Austria this week that he would suggest the calendar switch at the next Fifa executive committee meeting in October.
Despite Qatar having bid to host a summer World Cup, with innovative stadium cooling technology to combat the potential temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius, there remains concerns over player and fan welfare.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, chief executive of Bayern Munich, the German soccer giants, and president of the European Club Association, which represents Europe’s leading clubs, said he was in favour of the switch.
He told Germany's Express newspaper: “No doubt about it, it is good to hear if Fifa agrees on playing the 2022 World Cup during the winter. A tournament during the summer is not feasible.”
Moving the World Cup would have a major impact on domestic leagues around Europe, with the Qatar tournament threatening to disrupt schedules for three seasons, but Rummenigge believes an agreement could be reached.
He added: “Of course, you’d then have to come to an understanding about an arrangement for the scheduling of the domestic leagues with the associations, leagues and clubs for that year.”
England's Premier League remains opposed to Blatter's plan, however.
It said in a statement yesterday: “The Premier League position remains unchanged. The prospect of a winter World Cup is neither workable nor desirable for European domestic football.”