RIO DE JANEIRO — FIFA President Sepp Blatter responded Friday to criticism of the cost of staging the World Cup in Brazil by pledging to give at least $100 million from profits back to the country.
Soccer’s governing body gave South Africa $100 million to invest in development projects following the 2010 World Cup, but had not previously said it would establish a similar “social fund” after the 2014 tournament to Brazil.
The Confederations Cup, a World Cup warmup event, has been marred by protesters denouncing billions of dollars spent to host the World Cup — money some say should be going toward improving public services.
“We have left a legacy (in South Africa), a special fund of $100 million, this fund is controlled by the Football (Association) of (South) Africa, the government of South Africa and FIFA,” Blatter said during a news conference. “I am sure an amount like that, or even higher, will be possible to have here. ... The aim from FIFA is not to take profit out of the country, but to put into the country.”
Blatter said he can “understand this social unrest” in Brazil while the tournament has been taking place.
The demonstrations took off earlier this month over a 10-cent hike in bus and subway fare in Sao Paulo and morphed into a mass, nationwide movement voicing public dissatisfaction with a range of issues such as government corruption, poor education, health care and spending on the World Cup.
The government is projecting that $13.3 billion will be spent on stadiums, airport renovations and other projects for the World Cup, with an estimated $3.5 billion on the 12 venues.
As violence escalated in the streets near to Confederations Cup matches, with protesters clashing with police, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said her government would start to invest in projects the public had been demanding.
“They have promised to change — this is not our problem, this is a political problem, but something will be changed,” Blatter said. “Then the World Cup will have this platform when finally this can be delivered. It’s all a question of patience and a question of trust and confidence.”
Blatter also expressed “trust and confidence” in how the authorities coped with “some uncomfortable situations we have witnessed” during the Confederations Cup, declining to comment on the police firing tear gas and rubber bullets at some protesters.
Blatter, though, expects soccer to help unite the nation, and Brazil will lift the Confederations Cup on Sunday if it can beat reigning world and European champion Spain.
“Hope is one of the elements of football ... we play football nowadays in all perturbed countries in all the world,” Blatter said. “And not only in the perturbed countries where there are many (security) situations, like in Syria or in Afghanistan where we play football, but also (where) there is some social unrest.
“Look at European countries, there is social unrest — there are demonstrations in Portugal, France, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Greece.”
The extent of the public anger was clear to Blatter at the opening match of the Confederations Cup between Brazil and Japan, with fans loudly jeered him and Rousseff.
Blatter said he did not know if the president would attend Sunday’s final at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, and the Brazilian government told The Associated Press: “We do not have that information.”