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Valcke concerned with stadium construction pace

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SAO PAULO (AP) -FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke is worried about the slow pace of construction at some Confederations Cup stadiums, saying Brazil has to "speed up" work to make sure all six venues are ready in time for next year's tournament.

Valcke's comments Tuesday came on the same day as FIFA's technical team made an important inspection visit to Recife, with the northeastern city having the most difficulties in preparing its venue for the competition which is a warm-up for the World Cup.

Recife, Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, Fortaleza, Belo Horizonte and Brasilia were initially selected as hosts, but FIFA says Recife and Salvador will only host matches if they show improvement in their preparations by November.

"Definitely there are some stadiums which are not ready," Valcke said, without citing any specific venue. "Definitely there is some concern about a few stadiums, so we will have to make sure that the work will have to speed up. I'm talking mainly about the Confederations Cup. (For) the World Cup, it's OK for the time being."

Valcke was in Belo Horizonte to check on the city's preparations and praised the work done at Mineirao Stadium, which is already 84 percent completed, saying it was an example to be followed.

"It's great to see a stadium that is nearly ready," Valcke said. "That's the message I want to send out to the other venues. We are happy to see the stadium on the way to being completed. Belo Horizonte is a fine example of integration and hard work."

The Arena Pernambuco in Recife is only 64 percent ready ahead of its February deadline date. The construction company said that work is progressing by six percent each month since July, but local organizers wanted the work to be at about 80 percent finalized by the end of this month to satisfy FIFA's inspectors.

Before it was picked as a Confederations Cup host, Recife planned to have the 46,000-seat stadium completed at the end of 2013. It will host five World Cup matches, including one in the second round.

Arena Pernambuco will host three matches if it's included in the warm-up tournament, which will be played June 15-30 among the six continental champions, the World Cup winner and the host team.

Salvador is the other city which also has the November deadline to guarantee its participation in the Confederations Cup, but the Arena Fonte Nova was 74 percent completed by the end of September.

"Obviously at this moment in time there are no stadiums that are yet ready for the Confederations Cup," said Brazil Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo, the government official in charge of the World Cup and Olympic preparations. "We cannot, however, bring completion dates forward. We have schedules in which the stadiums will be ready and that will be the time to complete them."

FIFA has to decide the hosts by mid-November because that's when it will start preparing the tournament's ticket sales. FIFA has prepared schedules with four and five cities as a precaution.

Valcke will visit the World Cup host city of Porto Alegre on Wednesday before attending a board meeting of the local organizing committee in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday.

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Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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