Rio de Janeiro: FIFA president Sepp Blatter hailed the Maracana fans and the electric atmosphere at Sunday's Confederations Cup final as the most incredible he had ever heard and said Brazil would host a great 2014 World Cup. Speaking at a news conference where FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke pledged possibly to bring World Cup matches to Brazil's impoverished favelas via fan zones and giant screens, Blatter declared the test event a success despite unrest on the streets.
What moved Blatter most during the two-week competition was the astonishing rendition of the Brazilian national anthem before Sunday's final between Brazil and Spain, a game the hosts won 3-0. "In all my years I have never witnessed anything like that," Blatter said on Monday.
The 70,000-plus crowd at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana stadium continued singing the anthem after the musical accompaniment stopped, rising to an ear-splitting crescendo. They continued chanting and singing after the match began and by the time Fred scored the opening goal after two minutes it was impossible to hear the person next to you talking without them shouting.
"The Maracana is something exceptional and that was a very special roar. The fans were extraordinary yesterday. Not fanatical fans but fantastic fans," Blatter said. "They sang the national anthem for so long they delayed the start of the match for two minutes but it was not important. Yes there have been problems but they will be solved and we will have a great World Cup in Brazil next year."
Scenes of riot police firing tear gas were common during the tournament with protests centred on a number of grievances, the main one being the contrast between expensive new stadiums and the poor state of public services including health and transport. "It was a success despite all the unrest and protests," Blatter said. "But I think the social unrest is now resting. I don't know (for) how long but it is now resting."
Valcke said the protests would not stop the governing body's plans to take the World Cup to the people next year. "There are three million tickets available for the World Cup but this is a land of 200 million people so we will have fan zones and giant screens in different locations, maybe in the favelas and other places where people have no access to the stadium," he said.
"We want to give them the chance to watch and be part of the World Cup. We have done it before in past World Cups and that is exactly what we will do in Brazil." Valcke added that while protests had been a part of tournament, a degree of respect also emerged between the protesters outside the stadiums and people wanting to watch the match.
"The protesters did not stop them," he said. "We know what the situation is and we have had it for the last two weeks. But on one side you had all the fans wanting to watch the match and on the other side the demonstration. "There was respect between the two groups and they co-existed in this Confederations Cup." Valcke maintained security issues were a matter for the government and said the tournament had been a success.
"It was a great competition but from the minute it was over, it was over," he said. "Now we are totally focused on the World Cup, the World Cup did not start today it started the minute the Confederations Cup ended."