Venezuela: Copa America a Success
World Cup 2014 … in Venezuela?
By Simon Romero and Daniel Cancel, in Caracas - NY Times
Before this edition of the Copa América began, there were some dire predictions of political turmoil, organizational snafus, general chaos, and even local indifference to soccer from Venezuela’s baseball-loving public. So the bar was set fairly low for what might constitute success. But the tournament was a success even by objective terms — so successful, in fact, that today Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez will present FIFA president Sepp Blatter with the country’s formal application to play host to the 2014 World Cup.
It’s hugs all round among Chávez and the lords of football these days. On Sunday Blatter officially rescinded FIFA’s altitude ban which would have barred most Bolivian cities from staging World Cup qualifying games, thus acceding to the request of Chávez’s political ally, Bolivian president Evo Morales. And over the weekend Blatter noted that this year’s Copa was having “unprecedented repercussions” around the world, by which he meant that more people were paying attention to it than ever before.
Today at the presidential palace in Caracas, Chávez bestowed upon Blatter with a sash of the Order of Francisco de Miranda. “The Copa was incredible,” Blatter said, according to the Caracas daily El Universal. “It presented good football and an infrastructure of the first level.” The FIFA president went on to say that now, on his third visit to the country, he sees that soccer is now the “No. 1 sport” among Venezuelans. Still, Venezuela’s candidacy for 2014 would have to be considered a long shot; Brazil are tipped as the favorites to host the Mundial.
Nevertheless, Chávez praised the Vinotinto for their fifth-place finish at the Copa, as well as the champions — “¡Congratulations to my friend Lula and to Brazil on their championship!” he said — and tournament organizers for finishing the stadiums on time.