SAO PAULO - Brazil assistant coach and former world champion Carlos Alberto Parreira says it's "a joke" that the Brazilian government took so long to start working on some of the infrastructure projects needed for the World Cup.
With less than five months before the tournament, Parreira said he is disappointed with the country's preparations and accused the government of missing a huge opportunity to improve conditions for Brazilians.
Parreira told Radio CBN in an interview first aired Sunday that he believes stadiums will be ready in time, but it's a shame most infrastructure projects that could benefit Brazilians won't be completed until long after the World Cup.
The World Cup-winning coach in 1994 is the latest past champion to blast Brazil's preparations, following the recent criticism by former players Cafu, Bebeto and Rivaldo.
"We missed an opportunity to show the world what we can do in this country," Parreira said. "We missed an opportunity to provide more comfort to Brazilians and to show a different kind of Brazil."
The country has only seven of the 12 World Cup stadiums ready for the tournament that opens in June, and there are still doubts whether Curitiba will remain a host city because of delays in its stadium. But the greatest missed opportunities are related to the infrastructure work that was supposed to remain a legacy to the country's population. Many of the projects promised by the government will not be completed in time or won't even leave the drawing board.
"We know the World Cup is about stadiums, but it's not only about stadiums. Fans can't live in a stadium," Parreira said. "They say everything will eventually be ready in 2018, 2020... but we wanted it ready for the World Cup to try to change this view that the foreigners have about Brazil."
Parreira said the government is mostly to blame.
"Everything was supposed to be ready for the World Cup, but it was a total neglect," he said. "I saw recently that they are going to start the bidding processes for (work at) airports in March, three months before the World Cup. It's a joke. We won the bid seven years ago and it's only now that they are starting these bidding processes."
Parreira, who also coached Brazil in the 2006 World Cup, made some specific complaints about Rio de Janeiro, the city hosting the 2016 Olympics.
"Rio will always continue to attract tourists. It's a wonderful city. I can't think of a city that is more beautiful than Rio," said the 70-year-old Parreira, an assistant to Luiz Felipe Scolari. "But we all know that it could offer us a lot more comfort, a lot more safety and a better quality of life."
Brazil is expected to spend a total of about $14 billion in the World Cup, and the lack of government improvements to society prompted violent protests during the Confederations Cup last year. There were some demonstrations on Saturday in dozens of cities, and a lot more is expected during the World Cup, football's showcase event.
Cafu and Bebeto, World Cup winners with Parreira in 1994, last week said it would be a disaster if Curitiba was dropped because of the stadium delay there. Rivaldo, the former Barcelona midfielder who was key for Brazil when the five-time champion won the 2002 World Cup, said the country will "embarrass itself" because of its problematic preparations.